KENNEWICK -- The mark of a great football team isn't 40-point wins and second-quarter blowouts. It's picking yourself up after a surprise right cross knocks you down.
And how well you come back punching.
The Kamiakin Braves battled back from a dominating quarter-plus of play by Seattle Prep, grinding down the smaller Panthers in the second half and grounding out a 28-14 first-round state playoff win Saturday afternoon at Lampson Stadium.
Zach Umemoto ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns, sophomore fill-in Kylle Robertson played beyond his years at quarterback, and the Braves defense made the big plays in the second half.
"They smashed us in the mouth. They came ready to play," said fullback/linebacker Drew Oord, who bulled into the end zone from 8 yards out to get Kamiakin on the board in the second quarter. "But after that first quarter, our defense shut them down. They couldn't move the ball to save their lives."
The win sets up the rematch that Big Nine fans have been drooling over, with the Braves and Kennewick Lions playing next Saturday in the state quarterfinals. Kamiakin (11-0) handed the Lions their lone loss, 14-6 back in Week 4.
But that rematch seemed a long shot after Seattle Prep (9-2) opened the game in a fashion Kamiakin fans are not accustomed to: pushing their beloved Braves up and down the field and blowing holes in the Red Brick Wall.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched to the Kamiakin 24, tearing off chunks of yards in their double-tight end set with power back Charlie Brennan.
Quarterback Jackson Clough frequently pitched the ball to Brennan, then used his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame to lead the ball carrier into the hole along with 200-pound fullback Jim Killeen.
It added up to the Braves being outnumbered at the point of attack.
"A couple of times, I felt like four guys were on me," said Kamiakin defensive end Joe Hunt. "It was tough to hold my gap."
Kamiakin caught a break on that first drive, with a dead-ball personal foul putting Prep in a third-and-21 hole, eventually leading to the punt.
The Panthers' second drive lasted just three plays, with speedy back Tere Calloway -- Prep alternates the two each series -- coming to a dead stop before picking his way through the middle of Kamiakin's defense to reach open field on a 78-yard touchdown.
A three-and-out by Kamiakin, and Prep was back on the move as the quarter came to a close. In just 12 minutes of work, the visitors had piled up 173 yards on the ground -- about two games' worth for the Braves defense.
Three plays into the second quarter, Prep flashed its dangerous side, with a play-action pass from Clough to Parker Mays. Mays, the younger brother of former USC star and Cincinnati Bengals safety Taylor Mays, beat the one-on-one coverage on the outside and scored on the 39-yard play.
Bing, bang, boom -- Prep was up 14-0, and Kamiakin had yet to show any signs of figuring that offense out.
"I think we were shell-shocked, Hunt said. "But our team's a bunch of fighters. We came back and kept punching, came back with a 'W'."
The comeback started after Prep rolled the dice on its next possession.
Facing fourth-and-2 on his own team's 35, Panthers coach D.R. Clawson decided to go for it. The plan was to draw the defense offside, and if that didn't work, then run a play.
But not everyone got the message, and an unexpected snap resulted in a fumble and a short field for Kamiakin.
It was just the break the Braves needed.
"Always, it's one thing," said Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin. "One thing sparks you, one play. From that point on, guys said, 'Hey, this is our game.' "
Robertson, filling in for senior Jason Hutchison (dislocated finger, likely back next week), passed his first big test with a fourth-down completion to Brandon Larson for 23 yards. On the next play, Oord busted up the middle and powered into the end zone behind T.J. Tolliver, Sean Clausen and Nate Brandhorst.
"That fourth-down conversion, we fumble the ball and let them score going into the half," Clawson said. "At that point in the game, if we get that fourth-down conversion, we can drive the ball and get three or seven points. But we blew that, gave them a short field and the score was 14-7."
And the momentum swung all the way to Kamiakin.
Umemoto warmed up after the break, running for 104 yards in the second half. He scored on the first possession of the third quarter -- Robertson had another key fourth-down completion on the drive to James Swinyard.
With the score tied, the Braves defense took charge, and those open running lanes disappeared. Swinyard held Brennan to 2 yards, and Hunt and Corey McLean strung out Calloway to the sideline to set up a third-and-long on one stop.
On Prep's next possession, cornerback K Perrins crashed a second-down run and had tight coverage on a third-down pass. On fourth down, Prep tried a fake punt, but found no openings up the middle and turned the ball over to a short field.
Kamiakin scored after each of those possessions -- Robertson found Jesse Houser for a 17-yard TD after the first, and Umemoto ran in from a yard out on the second.
The Panthers' next drive ended on McLean's interception at the Kamiakin 11. Even though the Braves didn't move the ball, Swinyard's 68-yard punt (thanks to a stiff wind and a good bounce) had Prep 82 yards from pay dirt and needing two scores in the final 5:40.
Kamiakin finished with 248 yards on the ground and 311 total. And after their fast start, the Panthers manage just 68 more yards rushing the rest of the day.
Now, that defense can turn its attention on Kennewick, which topped Southridge 39-6.
"Next week, that game is going to be huge," Hunt said. "Huge rematch."
Kamiakin 28, Seattle Prep 14
Seattle Prep 7 7 0 0 -- 14
Kamiakin 0 7 14 7 -- 28
SP--Ter Calloway 78 run (Milo Cantor kick)
SP--Parker Mays 39 pass from Jackson Crough (Cantor)
K--Drew Oord 8 run (Blake Wagar kick)
K--Zach Umemoto 16 run (Wagar kick)
K--Jesse Houser 17 pass from Kylle Robertson (Wagar kick)
K--Umemoto 1 run (Wagar kick)
RUSHING--SP, Calloway 14-134, Charlie Brennan 18-92, Jim Killeen 5-18, Clough 2-7. K, Umemoto 30-156, Oord 7-54, Robertson 7-38.
PASSING--SP, Clough 6-10-1--90, Calloway 0-1-0--0. K, Robertson 6-10-0--65.
RECEIVING--SP, Mays 4-72, Jacob Green 1-12, Fletcher Collins 1-6. K, Houser 2-29, James Swinyard 2-14, Brandon Larson 1-23, Umemoto 1-(minus 1).
FIRST DOWNS--SP 14, K 21. FUMBLES-LOST--SP 1-0, K 0-0. PENALTIES-YARDS--SP 6-50, K 1-15.