TACOMA – There’s nothing like a swarming, smothering, suffocating defense to carry the day for a high school football team.
Ferris, its defense as stingy as a big dog with a small ball for all but the first half of the first quarter, made all the big plays when it counted en route to a 14-10 victory over Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma in a Class 4A state semifinal game that was postponed in Spokane on Saturday and moved to the Tacoma Dome on Monday.
The win sets up a rematch against Skyline of Sammamish for the state championship at 4 p.m. this Saturday at the Dome. Skyline defeated Ferris 45-21 for the 2009 4A title.
Trailing 10-0 less than seven minutes into the game, the Saxons roared back with a 2-yard touchdown run from Cole Heidinger at the 1:14 mark of the second period and a 2-yard score from Drew Sharkey late in the third.
Then they leaned on that rock-solid defense, twice stopping Bellarmine Prep inside their 20-yard line in the fourth quarter. The second denial came after the Lions had reached the 13 with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
“We have hung our hat on our defense all season, and tonight was no exception,” said Ferris coach Jim Sharkey. “Our defense has made plays all year.”
None was bigger than the fourth-and-9 Bellarmine Prep faced as it lined up at the Ferris 13 with 2:48 remaining. Sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau dropped into the pocket to pass but was flushed and then hurried into a poor throw by Taylor Kamitomo.
Kamitomo and fellow defensive end Drew Sharkey, the coach’s son, turned in standout performances as they stuffed the line and harassed Liufau throughout the semifinal game.
“Their quarterback is really good and we knew we had to pressure him or he could have a big game,” Kamitomo said. “They had a size advantage but we used our quickness.
Asked about his crucial, late-game play, Kamitomo said, “I’m a senior. It’s do or die at that point in time.”
The Lions did manage to gain possession of the ball one last time at their own 36, but they gained just four yards in three plays as the clock ran out.
Ferris mounted what proved to be the winning drive midway through the third period.
Starting on their own 36 yard line, the Saxons quickly got a big play when quarterback Ben Goodwin hit Jordan Tonani on a crossing pattern for 19 yards.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bellarmine Prep followed, which advanced the ball to the Lions’ 15. Six plays later, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Drew Sharkey bulled over left tackle Dillon Beschel from the 2 for the score.
“I just kept moving and chopping my feet, that’s what the coaches tell us,” said Drew Sharkey, who serves as Ferris’ short-yardage back.
Bellarmine Prep coach Tom Larsen felt his team wasted a couple of scoring opportunities with penalties and a missed field goal, but he had nothing but praise for Ferris’ defense.
“They tore the jersey off our running back (Isaiah Flynn) early in the game.” Larsen said. “They had some violent hitters.”