The key to winning big football games often hinges on a few big plays.
Bubba Frank just happened to be at the center of most of them during Prosser's 15-14 win over Othello in the Class 2A state quarterfinal on Saturday at Lampson Stadium.
The big, bruising running back ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against an elite defense and converted a 2-point conversion that led to the winning margin.
But his biggest contribution may have been turning a fake punt from a broken play into a drive-sustaining first down on fourth-and-3 with the Mustangs in desperate need of a score, trailing 14-8 late in the third quarter.
Frank rolled to the right looking for a receiver, but an Othello defender quickly stepped into Frank's path, stopping his momentum.
The passing lane was gone, but Frank wasn't done. He switched directions, eluding the first defender before bouncing off a couple more tacklers, eventually diving his way past the first-down marker.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know how I got it," said the 5-foot-11, 201-pound senior.
His quarterback, Ryan Fassler, never had a doubt.
"That guy's a beast. There's no other word for it," said Fassler, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. "He was supposed to throw it, but I guess he has that flair for the dramatic."
The Mustangs' offense went to work from there, driving 60 more yards on six plays, including an 11-yard hook-and-ladder from Trino Flores to Frank along the way. Fassler capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Danny Raap to put Prosser up 15-14 with 11:08 left in the game.
"We were presented with a lot of challenges but we found a way to get it done," Mustangs' coach Benji Sonnichsen said after his team earned a date with Tumwater (11-1) in next weekend's 2A semifinal. Prosser (11-1) will make its 11th semifinal trip in program history and second in two seasons.
Prosser will host the game. Sonnichsen said Mustangs' athletic director Anna Fazzari is working to secure a 1 p.m. Saturday start at Lampson Stadium, but she hasn't heard back from the WIAA.
Othello took control early in the game, as quarterback David Garza directed a six-play scoring drive early in the second quarter after his defense set him up with great field position at the Mustang's 36-yard line.
Garza hit Trevor Walker on a curl toward the sideline, and Walker dived for the goal line, tapping the pylon with the ball to put the Huskies up 7-0 with 8:09 left in the first half.
Garza directed another scoring drive on the next play. He connected with Walker for a 43-yard gain and Josiah Petersen gained 27 yards off left tackle before smashing through the line for a 1-yard TD to put Othello up 14-0.
Meanwhile, Prosser waited for a chance to score.
"We knew we had it in us," Fassler said. "Before the game, Danny Raap told me, 'If they get up 14-0, it doesn't mean anything.' "
With 4:25 left in the first half, Fassler completed four passes for 69 yards during a six-play scoring drive, capped by Frank's 7-yard touchdown run.
But the Mustangs got a game-changing break when Othello jumped offsides twice as Prosser lined up to kick the point after. The penalties moved the ball within 6 inches of the goal line, and the Mustangs chose to try for the 2-point conversion.
"We knew that would be important, and we thought we could score more than once," Sonnichsen said. "We knew our formation would give us a 3-on-1 mismatch in the box."
Fassler took a quick drop but shoveled a pass to Frank before he crossed the line of scrimmage, and Frank easily broke the plane to bring Prosser within 6 points.
The game took an unfortunate turn on Othello's next drive, when Mustangs defensive end Kyle Steinbock sacked Garza at the Huskies 36 with 50 seconds left in the first half. Garza stayed down on the turf as trainers hustled out to attend to the CWAC all-league signal-caller, and the crowd noise dropped to a whisper.
"I was shocked. I've never been injured," Garza said. "I thought I would pop right back up, but when I tried to get up I knew something was wrong."
Garza left the game with a knee injury and did not come back. He was replaced at quarterback by Walker, who completed one of his four attempts and was not as big a running threat as Garza.
"That changed the game, because we were able to be more aggressive," Sonnichsen said. "It didn't feel like every possession was do-or-die."
Garza stayed in uniform and was one of the last Othello players to leave the field, a classy symbol of a proud Huskies program.
"I was very confident (in Walker). I felt we could still go and score. It's sad to see it all end," Garza said. "I'm just thankful to God for letting us have a great season. It's more than just a football game."
Othello 7 7 0 0 -- 14
Prosser 0 8 0 7 -- 15
O--Trevor Walker 9 pass from David Garza (Miguel Gonzalez kick)
O--Josiah Petersen 1 run (Gonzalez kick)
P--Bubba Frank 7 run (Frank pass from Ryan Fassler)
P--Danny Raap 12 pass from Fassler (Trino Flores kick)
RUSHING--O, Tanner Wagner 11-37, Petersen 11-58, Garza 7-30, Walker 1-(minus 1). P, Raap 5-12, Frank 24-110, Isaiah Sanders 2-13, Elijah Hoefer 1-8.
PASSING--O, Garza 7-13-1-110, Walker 1-4-0-5. P, Fassler 14-19-0-111.
RECEIVING--O, Derek Cantu 2-12, Juston Lind 2-45, Walker 3-63, Petersen 1-5. P, Trino Flores 3-22, Sterling Clark 5-64, Raap 4-23, Harley Hall 2-12.
FIRST DOWNS--O 11, P 15. FUMBLES-LOST--O 1-0, P 1-0. PENALTIES-YARDS--O 7-70, P 6-40.