Thanks to a little trickery, a return to the Tacoma Dome seemed in Prosser’s grasp.
But a fumble here, a missed pass there and a few big plays by the Tumwater offense ended the Mustangs’ plans for a trip to the west side.
Tumwater knocked off Prosser 35-21 in a Class 2A state semifinal Saturday at Lampson Stadium.
“It sucks not being able to go to the Dome,” Prosser’s Bubba Frank said. “Everyone dreams about that. They are a great team. They made the plays, and we didn’t. That’s what it came down to.”
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Frank scored on a hook-and-lateral play with 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter, taking a perfect pitch from Danny Raap and cutting back to the middle.
The 52-yard run put the Mustangs on top 21-20, and despite a slew of missed opportunities, Prosser seemed poised to finally take control of the game and its first trip to the state title game since 2008.
But Tumwater wouldn’t go away.
The Thunderbirds took advantage of a pass interference call on a fourth-down incomplete pass, with Tyrus Snow scoring on an 11-yard run on the next play.
After the teams traded possessions, Prosser was set to get the ball back, but Sterling Clark fumbled on a punt return.
On the next play, Christian Cummings scored from 27 yards out to put Tumwater on top 35-21.
By beating Prosser, Tumwater (12-1) advanced to play Lynden (12-1) at 1 p.m. next Saturday in the state title game at the Tacoma Dome.
“Obviously, that game could’ve gone either way,” Prosser coach Benji Sonnichsen said. “I was hoping for an opportunity to play against a team that was bigger than us, had some Division I players — and our guys stood right toe-to-toe with them.”
Prosser (11-2) moved the ball thanks to big plays by Frank, Danny Raap and Clark. But once inside the red zone, the Mustangs didn’t convert, leaving lots of points on the field.
Trino Flores missed a 34-yard field goal, Frank fumbled inside the 10 and quarterback Ryan Fassler was intercepted inside the 20 in the first half.
“It’s really frustrating,” Frank said. “We did have a lot of chances, especially in the red zone. My fumble and Ryan’s pick, they doomed us. We needed those touchdowns.”
Prosser also recovered a pooch kick, blocked a punt and recovered a fumble in the first half, but still went into halftime tied 14-14.
Despite it all, though, the Mustangs were in the game late.
They were driving with 4 minutes to go and had first-and-goal at the 3 after another successful hook-and-lateral play, but again the Tumwater defense held, forcing a turnover on downs.
“We had enough defensive stops to make something happen here,” Sonnichsen said. “Some special plays almost happened.”
In the end, though, it was a successful season for Prosser, which reached the state semifinals for a second consecutive season. A year after being trounced 50-14 by Archbishop Murphy in the semifinals, the Mustangs played right with Tumwater and had their chances at victory.
“We told the guys, you shoot all your bullets in your gun,” Sonnichsen said. “We get the ball back with a minute-30 left, and guess what we’re thinking? We think we’re going to go down and score and kick an onside kick.
“That is how you have to live life and how you have to approach this game. It’s not over until the final second blows. If we can do that, that’s all I can ask for our guys. Obviously, we came out on the short end of the stick.”
Isaiah Sanders blocked the punt and recorded a sack on defense, while Ethan Hibbs recovered a fumble as Prosser kept the Tumwater wing-T in check for the most part.
Frank finished with 88 yards rushing on 20 carries and a touchdown. Fassler was 28-for-52 for 249 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Clark had seven receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown, while Raap had nine receptions for 63 yards.
“It was great just to have the opportunity to be in that game,” Sonnichsen said. “Sometimes the ball bounces that way. That is the game of football.”