It was a classic example of not one team losing but the other team winning.
Matthew Phillichi kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1 second remaining to lift the visiting Bellarmine Prep Lions past the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups 32-29 in a State 4A quarterfinal football game Saturday.
Bellarmine Prep (11-1) will take on Auburn (10-2) in a semifinal game next week at the Tacoma Dome. Auburn ended Mead’s season in a 21-7 decision.
The game had the feel that the last team with the ball would win. Both teams were evenly matched, and it showed throughout.
“It’s not like we played poorly,” G-Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “We missed some opportunities, but that’s high school football. We didn’t lose it, Bellarmine Prep won it and I’m going to give them credit.”
G-Prep (10-2) pulled even at 29-29 when running back Griffin Hare capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive by scoring from a yard out with 4:06 remaining.
The Lions proceeded to wipe off all but 1 second of the 4:06 showing on the clock with a methodical a 12-play drive that started at their 35-yard line. It appeared B-Prep was trying to move into field-goal range for the strong-legged Phillichi when the Lions faced fourth-and-3 from the G-Prep 17 with 1:35 to go.
But the Lions left Phillichi on the sideline, and Unversity of Colorado-bound quarterback Sefo Liufao scrambled 4 yards on a bootleg to extend the possession with a first down at the Bullpups’ 13.
G-Prep’s defense, which had difficulty with the Lions’ sizeable offensive line – especially the left side – stiffened, forcing a fourth-and-4 at the 7. B-Prep let the clock run down until 3 seconds were remaining before calling time out and bringing Phillichi on for the game-winning kick.
B-Prep took a 14-12 lead into halftime – the difference being two missed point-after kick attempts.
The Lions picked off a pass that G-Prep quarterback Zach Bonneau overthrew on the opening series of the third quarter, and B-Prep’s Garrett McKay returned it 25 yards to the Bullpups’ 15. Four plays later, running back Lou Millie burst in from 4 yards out to give the Lions their biggest lead at 21-12.
B-Prep picked off another pass on G-Prep’s next possession, but the Bullpups averted another score when Phillichi’s 44-yard field-goal attempt was pulled to the left.
“Obviously two key possessions and I threw picks,” Bonneau said. “If that doesn’t happen they don’t score. We probably would have come out with a victory. We didn’t execute as well as we could have like the past couple of weeks. Give the credit to Bellarmine Prep, they’re a helluva team.”
The Bullpups began their rally on their next series when Max Gruber connected on a 46-yard field goal to trim B-Prep’s lead at 21-15 with 4:16 to go in the third.
G-Prep’s defense had its best series, forcing the Lions to punt after three downs on the ensuing possession.
The Bullpups got their running game going again with Hare breaking loose on a 28-yard TD run. Gruber’s PAT gave G-Prep its only lead at 22-21 with 44 seconds remaining in the third.
The teams exchanged possessions before B-Prep regained the lead when Millie, who finished with a game-high 202 yards, scored on a 6-yard run for a 29-22 advantage with 8:24 to go.
That’s when G-Prep answered, tying the score at 29-29.
But the Lions, with the ball last, prevailed.
“Bellarmine Prep is a great football team, a class act and we came up on the short end of the scoreboard,” McKenna said. “We missed some tackles and they executed on some things we didn’t. We missed some opportunities. It wasn’t anything they did special or anything we did special, it was a great football game.”
McKenna called it a phenomenal season.
“Incredible season,” he said. “I’m so proud of the boys, the coaches, the administration, the whole Prep community. They all jumped on this ride and it was a great journey – one I’m going to cherish for a long, long time. Am I disappointed? Yes. Yeah I’m hurt and I’m upset and I’m not happy we lost by any stretch, but I’m so proud of our kids. Ultimately in the big picture of life that’s what it’s all about.”
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