SPANAWAY – Few if anyone around the state expected the Gonzaga Prep football team to knock off top-ranked Graham-Kapowsin on Saturday.
Except for the players and coaches roaming the east sideline at Art Crate Field in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
The Bullpups pushed the Eagles to the limit but came up short in a 20-14 defeat that will sting.
“I thought we exceeded a lot of outside expectations,” Gonzaga Prep safety Ryan Jackson said. “It was always our belief that we could go to the state championship, so that stings a little bit. But we fought hard all season and surpassed all expectations.”
Jackson led a stellar defensive effort that forced five turnovers and recorded a sack against the high-powered Eagles offense. Quarterback Bodie Stafford finished 9 for 21 for 170 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran in a touchdown. Running back Nate Moinette finished with 129 yards on 30 carries.
The story of the day, though, was the defense.
Graham-Kapowsin quarterback Daveon Superales had thrown just one interception all season, but Jackson picked him off twice alone.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” Prep coach David McKenna said. “Our kids played sound and when the opportunity was there to make plays we did.”
Graham-Kapowsin (12-0) moves on to the state semifinals where they will face the winner of Skyview-Eastlake, while Gonzaga Prep (10-2) saw its season come to an end.
Gonzaga Prep led 14-0 early in the third quarter before the Eagles were finally able convert in the red zone, scoring three consecutive touchdowns to take a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Prep then went on a patented 14-play, 72-yard drive that took more than five minutes off the clock. But it didn’t result in the points needed to extend the game, as quarterback Bodie Stafford was stopped at the 1 on a fourth-down keeper.
The Bullpups did get the ball back at their own 1 with 1:24 left in the game, but Stafford was sacked on the final play at the Eagles 33.
“Our kids fought,” McKenna said. “It is about this team – it is not about anything else. They worry about themselves as a group, and I’m proud of them for that. A lot of programs don’t do that and these kids did.”
On the first play of the game, the Eagles completed a 49-yard pass play to set up first-and-goal at the 6. Eagles running back Noah Fox-Flores fumbled on the 1, though, and Jacobe McClelland recovered.
On their next defensive possession, the Bullpups proved opportunistic again as Jackson intercepted a Superales pass in the end zone to keep the game scoreless.
Jackson came up big again on the third defensive possession, again intercepting Superales ending a long drive.
“Both came off great pressure from the defensive line,” Jackson said of his interceptions. “They forced him to scramble out and then I was able to make a play and come down with it.”
The offense then drove the length of the field, but Stafford was intercepted near the goal line. The Bullpups forced a punt and then finally got on the board as Stafford scored on a keeper from the 5 to cap an 11-play, 60-yard drive sending GP into halftime up 7-0.
On just the third play of the third quarter, Stafford hit Jonah Keller on a play-action pass that went 55 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“You have to tip your hat to them,” Graham-Kapowsin coach Jeff Logan said. “All hats off to them. They played an incredible game and I’m just glad that our kids made a few more plays than they did.”
The Eagles quickly responded with a four-play touchdown drive to make it 14-6. After a three-and-out by the offense, the defense watched the Eagles move down to the 4 but Camden Fletcher forced a fumble and Tommy Camp recovered.
The Eagles got the ball back after a three-and-out and then tied the game on a 32-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion. Stafford then was intercepted and the Eagles pounced quickly, as Jabez Woods took a slip screen 72 yards to the house for a 20-14 lead.
The Bullpups had two more chances, but Stafford came up short on his keeper and the final desperation drive ended in the sack.