Kamiakin made enough mistakes to lose, but in the end it was just enough big plays that allowed the Braves to overcome a seriously shaky start and a nerve-wracking finish in a 28-21 3A regional football victory over University on Friday night at Lampson Stadium.
Jace Navejas was the star of the night, catching two touchdown passes from Kylle Robertson and intercepting Titans quarterback Jeff Beaty in Kamiakin’s Red Zone with just over 2 minutes remaining in the contest.
“Throughout the week, I was struggling in practice, but my teammates picked me up,” Navejas said. “All the receivers were dropping passes in practice, especially me.”
Robertson started slow, hitting just one of his first eight passes and was intercepted twice in the first half. But he ended the night with 152 yards passing and three touchdowns, a tribute to his level-headed play.
“I didn’t put him in the best situations tonight. I made some bad calls, and he was getting a little frustrated,” Braves coach Scott Biglin said.
University, which upset Kamiakin in last season’s crossovers, trailed 21-0 before making it close, pulling to within seven points in both the third and the fourth quarters.
“You have to give props to University. Most teams, if they were down three scores, would have given up,” Braves defensive end Dylan Keech said after collecting two sacks and two more tackles for losses.
The Braves may have gotten a little over-confident at the half, something they couldn’t afford to do against a scrappy Titans squad.
“We didn’t have a great week of practice. I think we’ve got to prepare ourselves right,” Biglin said. “We’re glad to get out with a win. In the playoffs, whether you win by 1 or by 40, you get a chance to keep playing football.
“It’s better than a pretty loss.”
After each team failed to score on each of its three first-quarter drives, Kamiakin freshman defensive back Darreon Moore recovered a fumble by U-Hi receiver Trevor Martin at the Titans’ 49 yard line. Seven plays later, Umid Ramizov capped a 49-yard drive with a 15-yard sweep around left tackle to make it 7-0.
Navejas scored the next two, scoring on 27- and 21-yard passes from Robertson before the half.
“He’s just a little sophomore, but he’s making some big plays,” Keech said.
Meanwhile, Kamiakin’s defense was doing a good job slowing down the Titans’ passing game, which generated just 16 yards in the first half. But Beaty and Martin were a two-man show in the second half. After catching just one pass for seven yards in the first half, Martin hauled in six passes for 190 yards and two scores in the final two quarters. He also came up big on special teams with two onside kicks, which University was able to recover in the second half.
“That No. 80 is a utility player to the max,” Keech said. “They were trying to get the ball to him.”
The Titans put a scare into the Braves when Trevor Martin caught an 82-yard touchdown pass from Beaty with 3:46 remaining in the game, and then Martin booted a successful onside kick to set up the final drive.
That’s when Navejas made his game-saving interception.
“I knew the receiver was going for a slant,” Navejas said. “I just floated around behind him so I wouldn’t get beat.”
Kamiakin will host Columbia River next Saturday in a first-round state playoff game.
University 0 0 14 7 — 21
Kamiakin 0 21 0 8 — 28
K—Umid Ramizov 15 run (Conner Shymanski kick)
K—Jace Navejas 27 pass from Kylle Robertson (Shymanski kick)
K—Navejas 21 pass from Robertson (Shymanski kick)
U—Steven Pesch 5 pass from Jeff Beaty (Trevor Martin kick)
U—Martin 9 pass from Beaty (Martin kick)
K—Austin Gutierrez 45 pass from Robertson (Shymanski kick)
U—Martin 82 pass from Beaty (Martin kick)
RUSHING—U, Beaty 12-30, Bryce Williamson 9-40, Michael Prothero 3-14, Martin 1-(minus 4). K, Ramizov 24-123, Robertson 9-9, Michael Jones 3-10, Justin Larsen 2-6.
PASSING—U, Beaty 15-23-2-247, Griffin Thorson 0-1-1-0. K, Robertson 7-19-2-152.
RECEIVING—U, Pesch 4-33, Martin 7-197, Williamson 4-19. K, Casey Brandon 1-11, Hunter Shauers 1-19, Navejas 2-49, Sterling Farrah 1-17, Gutierrez 2-57.
FIRST DOWNS—U 10, K 16. FUMBLES-LOST—U 1-1, K 1-0. PENALTIES—U 10-75, K 5-50.