LAKE STEVENS, Wash. – Gonzaga Prep ran roughshod over the Greater Spokane League and in its first-round playoff game against Moses Lake.
On Saturday, it ran into tougher competition. Namely, a Division I-bound tailback doing damage out of the Wildcat formation.
Jayden Limar rushed 20 times for 131 yards with four touchdowns and Lake Stevens handed the visiting Bullpups their first loss of the season, a 35-14 decision in a State 4A quarterfinal.
It’s not the ending the Bullpups wanted, but it doesn’t take away from the successes they had .
“I’m so proud of our kids, love them to death,” Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna said.
“Even in the moments of defeat, I think we can hold our heads up high,” defensive end Kaz Melzer said. “We played our hearts out. We left everything on the field.”
The Bullpups (11-1) had no answer for Limar, a junior who is being recruited by several power conference teams, nor his speedy running mate Trayce Hanks, who is listed at 5-foot-7 – maybe in cleats.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Limar said. “It’s been, I think four years since we went to the state semifinals. And the fact that I’m actually playing now and we’re going there is absolutely amazing.”
G-Prep senior quarterback Ryan McKenna finished his high school career with 29 carries for 152 yards with two TDs – but 133 of those yards came in the first half as the Vikings’ defense took it up a notch in the second half. His season totals were 1,588 yards with 21 TDs.
The Vikings (10-0) picked off McKenna twice – once late in the first half when it was sill in doubt and another late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“I’m proud of the team that I’ve played for, for four years with the seniors,” Ryan McKenna said. “I love every single one of them and this is something I’m never gonna forget. I love each and every one of those guys and I guarantee all those dudes are gonna be at my wedding.”
“He’s special,” Dave McKenna said of his son and quarterback. “He’s got that ‘It’ factor. And as a dad, I’m so proud of him.”
Lake Stevens took the early lead with a first-quarter score form Hanks from 4 yards out.
The Bullpups replied, with much of if coming for the legs of McKenna. A 17-play, 90-yard drive culminated with his 10-yard run to tie the score early in the second quarter.
Another long drive put Gonzaga Prep in the red zone again. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, McKenna pounded it in and the Bullpups went up 14-7 with a little more than 5 minutes left in the second quarter.
It was all Lake Stevens the rest of the way.
It took the Vikings four plays to get back into the end zone, with Limar taking a direct snap from 4 yards out.
“I feel like (the Wildcat) gives us a different aspect to the game that’s good,” Limar said. “We bring it in and we know that they’re going to stack the box so they can stop the run. But even if they do that, we find ways to get around it.”
G-Prep got the ball back at its 32 and went for it on fourth-and-1 at the 41, but McKenna was stuffed and the Bullpups turned it over.
“I got greedy and stupid,” Dave McKenna said, “My fault.”
Quarterback Grayson Murren, in his first game back after missing several weeks with a fracture in his leg, hit Drew Carter to the 7, and Limar took the direct snap again to the goal line. He fumbled, but it was recovered by a Lake Stevens lineman for a score to make it 21-14 with just under 2 minutes left in the half.
When the Bullpups got the ball back, McKenna tried to hit a receiver deep down the right sideline, but it was picked off by Hanks. The Vikings ran out the clock on the half with a touchdown advantage.
G-Prep was forced to punt on its first possession of the second half and McKenna’s kick pinned the Vikings at the 2.
The Vikings marched to the Bullpups 18 behind equal doses of Limar and Hanks. They went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Bullpups 18 and Limar was stuffed for a loss of 1 yard and turnover on downs.
A short punt by McKenna gave it back to Lake Stevens at the G-Prep 46. Murren found Cole Becker open for 19 yards to the 4, then Limar went over left tackle for his third score of the game and a 28-14 lead with 6:48 to go.
“He can run, he’s fast,” G-Prep linebacker Luciano Reynolds said of Limar. “He’s quick. He gets to the edge and he can go. He’s an athlete.”
The Vikings executed an onside kick and took the ball again at the Bullpups 46. Hanks went for 21 yards up the middle and four plays later, Limar scored again from the 4.
G-Prep only had two possessions, plus McKenna’s second interception of the game on a second down late in the game, in the second half.
“We just couldn’t control the ball,” nose tackle Ephraim Watkins said. “If you look at our games, we’re great at time of possession. Tonight was not the case and defensively we tried, but they’re a good ballclub. That (No.) 17 is good.”
“I think they’re a good team,” Ryan McKenna said. “They made some adjustments at half and they came out and played.”
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