The play on the field for much of the day Saturday at Union Stadium resembled the weather – ugly, blustery and unpredictable.
The emotions ran high too, with multiple personal fouls called on both sides and considerable chirping in the handshake line – and the parking lot – when it was over.
In the end, everything combined was just a little more than the home team could handle. A furious comeback came up one play too short, and Mt. Spokane’s season came to an unsatisfying end at 9-2.
Garfield quarterback CJ Caminong, who is headed for University of California next year, rushed 19 times for 117 yards with a touchdown, and added two TDs in the air, and the 10th-seeded Bulldogs built a three-touchdown lead and outlasted the seventh-seeded Wildcats 28-22 in a State 3A first-round matchup.
Garfield (7-3) faces No. 1 O’Dea, a 48-0 winner over Auburn Riverside, in a quarterfinal next week.
The game was penalty- and turnover-filled.
“Very, very, very ugly,” Mt. Spokane coach Terry Cloer said. “We needed to take care of ourselves, you know, and we needed to do some more in the first half and not dig such a deep hole.”
“We wanted to win. It’s tough, man,” Mt. Spokane senior Matteo Saccomanno said. “But that’s high school football for you.”
Saccomanno, playing on an injured foot, had three short touchdown runs playing in a limited capacity. Mt. Spokane quarterback TJ Haberman completed 22 of 45 passes for 246 yards with four interceptions, and Greater Spokane League TD leader Bode Gardner was held to four catches for 21 yards.
“Crazy, playoff football,” Cloer said. “We were down 21 there and our kids battled. I’m proud of our effort and I’m proud of the resiliency that we showed. It gave us an opportunity to win it there in the end.”
The gusting winds made passing an adventure for much of the day.
“(Garfield’s) got players, you know, and the ball’s in the air a little bit longer and you’ve got to adjust,” Cloer said.
A 56-yard scoop-and-score by Garfield’s Peter Sander made it 28-7 four plays into the fourth quarter.
Saccomanno scored on a 3-yard run after a nine-play, 53-yard drive with 4:15 left. Garfield recovered the onside kick but punted it right back.
The Wildcats went nine plays and 89 yards, aided by two personal fouls, and Saccomanno scored his third TD of the day on a 4-yard run.
Garfield recovered the onside kick, but Caminong fumbled while running out the clock and Mt. Spokane recovered at its 46 with 1:38 left. Completions to Gardner and Tristan Olson moved it to the Garfield 28, but Haberman’s fourth-down pass with 19.2 seconds left fell incomplete at the goal line, ending the Wildcats’ season.
“(Saccomanno) showed huge heart,” Cloer said. “Bum foot, played his butt off.”
Saccomanno, who missed last week’s “Round of 32” game with the injury, was helped off the field on several occasions.
“My teammates just pushed me all week,” Saccomanno said. “I didn’t know if I was even going to be out here. Seeing them work so hard in practice for the state championship – I just wanted to get out there, man. I knew I had to put all my effort to it.”
On Garfield’s first possession of the day, Caminong hit Tariq Shabazz on an intermediate route and the receiver broke a tackle and went 43 yards for an early 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats took their next drive into the red zone, but Haberman’s fourth-down pass was off the fingertips of Olson at the goal line and they turned it over on downs.
Mt. Spokane forced a fourth down and Garfield attempted a fake punt, but Rahshawn Clark was tackled short of the line to gain, and the Wildcats took over at the Bulldogs 36. But Haberman’s fourth-down pass was picked off by Romaree Fleeks at the 12.
The teams traded turnover on the next three possessions.
Caminong took over on the next drive, with runs of 21 and 14 yards to get into Mt. Spokane’s red zone. Facing third-and-12 at the 13 with 30.8 seconds left, he found Clark in the far corner for a touchdown and the Bulldogs led 14-0 at halftime. Haberman completed 5 for 20 passes for 35 yards and three interceptions in the first half.
Garfield marched seven plays and 72 yards on its opening possession of the third quarter, culminated by Caminong’s 1-yard keeper, for a 21-0 lead.
The Wildcats took the ball back on a fumbled exchange and Peyton Day recovery at the 31. Saccomano took a short pass, broke a tackle and went 57 yards to the Garfield 8. Two plays later he barreled in from the 2 to make it a two-score game.
Hunter McKellips recovered the onside kick and Mt. Spokane took it at the Garfield 45. A Garfield personal foul gave the Wildcats first-and-goal at the 8, but on fourth down at the 1, Haberman’s pass was deflected incomplete.
Garfield picked up a first down, but a snap went over Caminong’s head back to the 3. He went to cover it, but the ball popped out and Mt. Spokane’s Tanner Startin recovered in the end zone for an apparent touchdown. The referees huddled and ruled that an inadvertent whistle on Caminong’s nonrecovery made the play dead, giving Garfield a redo of first-and-10.
Garfield fumbled three plays later and Mt. Spokane recovered at the 29. But Haberman fumbled the next snap and Sander picked it up on the run and went 56 yards for three-score lead with 10:58 left.
“We expected a lot out of our guys, and we expected to make a long run,” Cloer said. “Only one team ends up holding the hardware at the end, but I’m just proud of our guys and the season we had.”