Field goal beats Gonzaga Prep in quarterfinal

G-Prep's Max Gruber (33) is brought down on the final play, a kick return following Bellarmine Prep’s field goal with 1 second left. (Tyler Tjomsland)
G-Prep's Max Gruber (33) is brought down on the final play, a kick return following Bellarmine Prep’s field goal with 1 second left. (Tyler Tjomsland)

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 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 University 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.

The Bullpups began their rally on their next series when Max Gruber connected on a 46-yard field goal to trim Bellarmine 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.

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