KENNEWICK – Lilomaiava Mikaele led Gonzaga Prep in rushing yards and touchdowns all season. He helped the Bullpups earn the Greater Spokane League’s top 4A seed to the district playoffs and a Week 10 crossover win over Moses Lake to reach state.
So why mess with a good thing once the first round of state rolls around?
Mikaele carried 30 times for 190 yards with three touchdowns, and the visiting 10th-seeded Bullpups beat the seventh-seeded Kamiakin Braves 40-27 at Lampson Stadium on Saturday.
“It feels amazing,” Mikaele said. “It feels great watching our defense being able to step up and get better every week. Same with our offense.
“And you can always, always congratulate our O-line because without them it doesn’t go anywhere.”
“(Kamiakin) is a really good football team, obviously,” Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “And it was a battle.”
The Bullpups advances to a quarterfinal and will travel next week to play second-seeded Lake Stevens, which topped 15th-seeded North Creek 42-27 on Friday. Lake Stevens eliminated Gonzaga Prep 35-14 in a quarterfinal last season.
“Being a blocker for Ryan McKenna (last year), it was hard to let it end there,” Mikaele said. “Being able to get back at them would mean everything.”
“I told the kids, you know, we can’t look at that,” McKenna said. “We will study our opponent, but it’s about what we do. I really believe that.”
G-Prep led by a touchdown late in the third quarter when it got the ball back at its 20 after a Kamiakin punt. Nick Bankey carried twice for 20 yards to get the Bullpups some breathing room, then Mikaele imposed his will on the defense.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound fullback carried 10 of the next 12 plays, including the last six, culminating with a 3-yard touchdown to make it 34-20 with just more than 8 minutes to go.
“Our guards were getting up to the backers,” Mikaele said. “They were completely squaring them up, giving me two-way goes. There’s just a lot to work off of that.”
“We find out some things that work,” McKenna said, “and we go off those guys up front and hope, you know, (the defense) got a little tired and I think that’s when we can take advantage of that.”
The teams traded empty possessions, then G-Prep’s Matthew Herzog punted to the Kamiakin 1. The Braves went the distance in seven plays, with Carter Poland’s 8-yard pass to Gabe Tahir making it 34-27 with 2:38 to go.
Gonzaga Prep recovered the onside kick at the 48. Mikaele carried on first down and with Kamiakin defenders trying to strip the ball, he rumbled for 29 yards, dragging tacklers to the 17.
“I’m not lying, I zoned out and all I saw was the end zone,” Mikaele said. “I was trying to get there by any means.”
Two plays later, he carried in from the 14 to provide the final margin.
“You know, you draw an opponent, it’s a Friday night or Saturday you get to play and we’re just happy that we came out on top today,” McKenna said.
It didn’t start out so happy for G-Prep.
On Kamiakin’s second possession, 240-pound Devin Crow barreled into the end zone on third-and-goal from the 2 to complete a nine-play drive. The extra point went awry and Kamiakin led 6-0.
G-Prep went three-and-out and gave it back to Kamiakin at the Braves 32. Poland found David Kuku down the sideline for 40 yards to the G-Prep 23. Two plays later, Poland went around left end for 16 yards for a score. The two-point attempt was stuffed, and the Braves led 12-0 after one quarter.
Kamiakin flubbed a punt attempt, and the Bullpups took over at the Braves 26. Four plays later, Noah Holman powered in from the 1. The extra point was blocked, and G-Prep trailed 12-6.
Poland was picked off on a fourth-down pass by Kai Vancurler and he returned it to the GP 45 with 3 minutes left in the half. JoJo Shortell gained 17 yards to the Braves 34 and Mikaele picked up 4 and 5 yards at a time to get first-and-goal at the 9 with 45 seconds left.
Two plays later, he took it off-tackle right for 3 yards into the end zone. The extra point by Matthew Herzog put Gonzaga Prep up 13-12 at the half.
“We faced a lot of adversity after those first three-and-outs,” defensive lineman Luke Miller said. “We got a big stop in the red zone but they scored twice, but we fired back. We forgot it and we just kept playing our ball and got a few turnovers.”
“We had some uncharacteristic mistakes,” McKenna said. “Penalties we can’t have. We’ll get better.”
On the second play of the second half, G-Prep’s William Alexander-Durr jumped an out route, came up with the interception, and went 38 yards for a touchdown to stretch the Bullpups’ lead to 20-12.
“I just did my job and I saw the ball coming to me,” Alexander-Durr said. “I just broke on the ball and was an athlete.”
But Kamiakin bounced back. A personal foul set them up in G-Prep territory, then Poland hit Buchanan for 35 yards to the 4. Crow pounded it in, and his 2-point conversion run tied it at 20.
G-Prep forced a punt at started at its 40. A post-play personal foul on the defense moved it to the Kamiakin side, then Shortell connected with Will Ohman – on his only completion of the day – down the sideline for 31 yards to the 2. Two plays later, Holman went untouched into the end zone and the Bullpups went up 27-20.
Holman finished with 53 yards on 13 carries with two TDs. Poland went 27 of 48 for 374 yards for Kamiakin. Kuku made nine catches for 124 yards and Buchanan had eight for 129.
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