The River View football team had just about every break go the other way in the first half of its Class 1A state quarterfinal game with Quincy on Saturday afternoon at Lampson Stadium.
Interceptions, a fumble, a bad snap resulting in a big loss, untimely penalties all of it colluded to keep the Panthers out of the end zone on three or four plum chances to get out fast against the Jackrabbits.
Through it all, though, River View stuck to its family theme and setback, comeback motto, and mustered enough grit to forge a 14-0 win in the biggest game in program history.
Unbelievable, said lineman/linebacker Austin Weatherby, who was Johnny on the spot to recover a botched-punt-turned-fumble in the end zone and complete a quick two-score flurry early in the fourth quarter that accounted for all the games points.
Without our team, were nothing. That second half when we play together, were unstoppable.
Certainly on this day, sparking an unbridled celebration by the players and a roar from the sizable slice of Finley that was in the stands upon realizing their Panthers were going to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Its just amazing, said Kody Bartlett, who made several big plays for River View at linebacker and on special teams. We pulled together the last two quarters of the game and showed how we really play after that bad first half.
River View (11-1) is headed for a rematch with Royal (11-0) next Saturday at Lampson Stadium (time TBD). The Knights, who beat Cle Elum/Roslyn 61-27 on Saturday in Moses Lake, handed the Panthers their only loss of the season, 39-7 back in Week 5.
No doubt River View will need another stellar day from its defense like it got Saturday. Quincy (7-5) came in powered by the run but was limited to 50 yards on 38 carries (including 51 yards in losses on four sacks and a bad snap).
We never quit playing as a team, said tackle Kyle Hall. We are a team. Were family.
The key was defensive coordinator Brian Eisenbarths plan to move Bartlett and Ricardo Castillo from outside linebacker to defensive end, creating a five-man line that gave Quincy fits.
After the Jackrabbits went to the bullpen to replace their option quarterback with a thrower late in the game, the Panthers went after him hard. Hall had a sack, Bartlett two more and Ruvim Tyutyunnik another as River View turned away Quincys final realistic push.
We brought the pressure, and they could not handle that, Bartlett said. They could not handle us in the middle, they could not handle Kyle (Hall) and they could not handle our defense.
Couldnt handle Bartlett on punts, either. Twice the rough-and-tumble senior made big plays while Quincy was just trying to kick away the ball.
The first came with three minutes left in the second quarter. Bartlett came crashing off the edge, pushing back one of the up backs into the punters path. The kick glanced off the blockers helmet and set River View up at the Jackrabbits 12.
The Panthers fumbled that chance away, but Bartletts next big play turned into points.
Quincy switched punters early in the fourth, going to 6-foot-2, 235-pound lineman Mario Figueroa after regular punter Jose Guardado-Chavez got a case of the shanks.
So when the snap sailed over Figueroas head, he reacted in the way linemen do and lumbered back into the end zone to recover the ball. Bartlett was right there with him, knocking the ball loose for Weatherby to recover, like a big ol birthday present dropped at his feet, wrapped with a bow and a card that read welcome to the state semifinals.
I was not expecting that, Weatherby said laughing.
The play came on the heels of River Views one solid drive, a 13-play, 77-yard ground-pounder on the back of Alonso Mendoza (10 carries, 64 yards) as the Panthers offensive line finally started to break down the smaller-but-scrappy Quincy front seven.
River Views potent running game managed 164 yards but needed 43 carries to get there. Tyutyunnik threw for 104 yards but was intercepted three times. Indeed, the biggest play the talented sophomore QB made in the game came when he was picked off in the end zone in the closing seconds of the first half.
Quincys Andy Vargas was the beneficiary of a zig-zag pick receiver went one way, the pass the other and had a big jump on River Views players going back the other way.
Tyutyunnik eventually caught up, giving Vargas a big shove at the 5 that sent the Jackrabbit defender tumbling out of bounds 1 yard short of the end zone.
It was a touchdown-saving play, and maybe a game-saver when it came to momentum.
Theres a ton to admire with this group, and one of those things is they understand short memory, said River View coach Brett Jay. You have to make the next play.
Now, they will get to make it one step closer to the state championship.
Quincy 0 0 0 0 0
River View 0 0 0 14 14
RVRuvim Tyutyunnik 1 run (Alonso Mendoza kick)
RVAustin Weatherby fumble recovery in end zone (Mendoza kick)
RUSHINGQ, Antonio Melendez 11-29, Jacob Durfee 9-25, John Lindquist 4-17, Darren Hodges 3-9, Andy Vargas 5-6, Dallas Bassett 5-(minus 18), team 1-(minus 18). RV, Mendoza 21-107, Tyutyunnik 12-61, Kody Bartlett 7-10, Josh Marshall 1-3, Terran Brown 1-(minus 1), team 1-(minus 16).
PASSINGQ, Durfee 2-8-07, Bassett 4-8-066. RV, Tyutyunnik 11-19-3104.
RECEIVINGQ, Vargas 2-20, Lindquist 1-28, Domingo Villarreal 1-11, Melendez 1-9, Hodges 1-4. RV, Marshall 5-45, Dylan Thomas 2-42, Brown 2-33, Bartlett 2-17.
SACKSRV Bartlett 2-(minus 17), Tyutyunnik 1-(minus 10), Kyle Hall 1-(minus 6). INTERCEPTIONSQ, Vargas 2, Durfee.
FIRST DOWNSQ 9, RV 19. FUMBLES-LOSTQ 2-2, RV 2-1. PENALTIES-YARDSQ 4-44, RV 7-53.