PASCO -- For the better part of Saturday afternoon, it looked like Chiawana's 4A state quarterfinal game with Ferris would be characterized by one play.
It was a third-quarter run in which the Saxons quarterback and fullback collided, Ferris fumbled -- twice -- and wound up with a 7-yard gain for a first down.
The breaks, most definitely, were not going the Riverhawks' way.
Instead, Chiawana's 13-7 loss to Ferris -- and indeed the second-year program's benchmark season -- will be remembered by the Edgar Brown Stadium faithful for a fourth quarter of gritty determination, culminating in couple near misses at a game winner.
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"They have better players than we do," Chiawana coach Steve Graff said matter-of-factly after the game. "But I'll take any of our guys in an alley.
"Our kids weren't going to quit. That's not what they're all about. The clock just ran out before we got ahead."
Ferris (12-0), state runner-up last year, advances to the semifinals for the fourth straight season and will face Bellarmine Prep (11-1).
Chiawana (10-1) entered the fourth quarter trailing 13-0 with almost no offense to back up a marvelous defensive game. Jordan Downing had 84 yards on the ground, but the passing game had lost 4 yards, taking into account a couple of sacks.
Moreover, the Riverhawks had failed to take advantage of interceptions by Downing and fellow linebacker Nick Vincent, nor had they gathered in any of the four fumbles Ferris put on the ground.
At that point, getting into the end zone twice seemed like a lottery shot, considering both teams were bleeding the clock dry with ball-control offense.
Add to the mix that Ferris opened the quarter at the Riverhawks 37, and quarterback Ben Goodwin made a scrambling run down to the 11.
But Chiawana's defense stood up, and Saxons kicker Alex Belling, who made field goals of 33 and 21 yards, missed on another 21-yarder.
The Riverhawks then chewed through nearly 6 minutes of clock, but they went 80 yards, much of it on the back of Downing mixed in with a 22-yard catch-and-run by CJ Edrington.
It was Chiawana's longest play of the day, and it set up Edrington's 11-yard scoring grab from Luc Graff with 3:43 to play.
"We wanted to match their intensity in the second half," said Vincent, a two-way starter whose block helped spring Edrington's 22-yarder. "That's the best team we faced all year."
The defense came up with a three-and-out, giving the offense 2:03 to travel 60 yards and keep the season alive.
The Riverhawks got most of it, finally finding a nice mix of pass and run -- plus a 15-yard facemask that got things going.
But after Graff's third-and-12 hookup with Edrington at the 15, the drive stalled. Graff and Miquiyah Zamora had a couple of near misses, and Downing picked up 3 yards on a dumpoff.
On fouth-and-7 at the 12 and 28 seconds on the clock, Graff was flushed by heavy pressure. Running to his right and with defenders in pursuit, he threw to the back of the end zone but didn't have any targets. Untouched, the ball rolled to a stop, along with Chiawana's season.
"It was a great game -- that's just football," said Ferris defensive end Dillon Beschel, who had two of the three sacks on Graff. "Anything can happen and momentum can shift.
"They were extra physical. That was the best team we faced all year."
Downing finished with 129 yards on 30 carries, accounting for well over half of his team's 193 total yards. The defense limited Ferris, which had been held under 30 points just once previous, 271 yards of offense.
But what stuck in coach Graff's mind were the chances his team missed.
"In the first half, we had to make good on the turnovers they gave us," he said. "We've got to get something out of it.
"We would have made (them) pucker if we'd got a couple of those in."
Ferris 13, Chiawana 7
Ferris 7 3 3 0 -- 13
Chiawana 0 0 0 7 -- 7
F--Kole Heidinger 1 run (Alex Belling kick)
F--FG Belling 33
F--FG Belling 21
C--CJ Edrington 9 pass from Luc Graff (Pilate Lopaya kick)
RUSHING--F, Heidinger 16-75, Ben Goodwin 13-71, Jordan Tonani 9-27, Drew Sharkey 2-8. C, Jordan Downing 30-129, Graff 4-(minus 22).
PASSING--F, Goodwin 9-13-2-90. C, Graff 10-20-1-86.
RECEIVING--F, Tonani 7-68, Heidinger 1-12, Riley Stockton 1-10. C, Edrington 5-59, Gera Duckworth 2-11, Miquiyah Zamora 1-9, Brett Adamson 1-4, Downing 1-3.
FIRST DOWNS--F 15, C 13. FUMBLES-LOST--F 4-0, C 0-0. PENALTIES-YARDS--F 4-31, C 4-35.