Forget the big numbers generated by Schutt-to-Jones. Forget the miscues that cost first downs and even touchdowns.
Forget that onside kick that seemed to defy physics in order not to travel 10 yards — though that one sticks in the noggin on sheer weirdness alone.
When Prosser coach Benji Sonnichsen and his Mustangs look back on Saturday night’s 45-40 loss to Tumwater in the Class 2A state semifinals, they will remember guts and character and the ability to get back up one more time.
“That’s the story of our season,” said quarterback Mason Schutt, who threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns and also ran for a score. “We lost three times this (regular) season, and every time we came back.”
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The Mustangs (9-4) kept coming back Saturday against an unbeaten Tumwater squad (13-0) that will play in next week’s championship game against Lynden (12-0), a 21-7 winner over CWAC champ Ellensburg.
Schutt threw touchdown passes of 50, 57 and 17 yards to Cardell Jones, who finished with 12 catches for a whopping 259 yards.
“That kid is amazing,” Schutt said of the junior receiver. “He makes so many plays.”J.J. Martin also caught a pair of TDs from 25 and 7 yards.
But in playing a team that will be making its third trip to the finals in four years, Prosser needed to make just a few less mistakes.
Penalties were their bug-a-boo in the first half, getting the offense off schedule with first-and-15, second-and-long. But the real blow came in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
A flurry of first-quarter scoring had the Thunderbirds up 16-12 before both teams went a little cold in the second quarter. Tumwater mounted a 75-yard drive, culminating in Griffin Shea’s 17-yard TD reception from Jayden Croft with 1:45 on the clock.
As Prosser tried to answer back starting from its own 29, Schutt had trouble getting a clean handle on the shotgun snap, and Tumwater came up with the ball at the Mustangs 22.
On the next play, Croft found Shea again for his third score of the half. Suddenly, a one-score game was 31-12 and in danger of getting out of hand.
“Obviously, the temptations lingers in front of me,” Sonnichsen said about dwelling on woulda and coulda. “But as I preach to the kids, you do what you can and then it’s the next challenge. We shot all the bullets in our gun.”
Prosser wasted no time mounting a charge to start the third quarter, recovering a Tumwater fumble near midfield before Schutt found Jones for a 57-yard score and then the 2-point conversion.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Schutt and company drove 91 yards for another score, 25 yards to Martin, to pull within 31-26.
The game was back on, and Schutt was just getting warmed up, on his way to 299 yards in the second half alone.
“He blew away all of our expectations,” Sonnichsen said of his senior quarterback, referring not just to the game but the season. “We knew he was going to be good, but we did not know this good. He took on the leadership role, he was tough as nails. I guess the word for it is poise.”
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, Tumwater displayed a good measure of poise as well, always finding an answer when Prosser pulled within a single score.
Martin’s score with 7 minutes left in the third quarter was answered by a touchdown 21⁄2 minutes later.
Jones’ third touchdown of the night with 4:45 left in the game was answered just eight seconds later.
Prosser capped the scoring with 1:53 on the clock to close within five points with 1:53 to play. But the ensuing onside kick took a crazy hop and didn’t quite go 10 yards, and Tumwater finished off the clock.
The message in the locker room after the game was that the Mustangs have plenty to look forward to, with a team dominated by sophomores and juniors. And they have plenty to be proud of, reaching the semifinals for the third straight season.
“We played our hearts out all season long,” Schutt said.
And it is tough to come up with a number that tops that.
Tumwater 16 15 7 7 — 45
Prosser 12 0 14 14 — 40
P—Cardell Jones 50 pass from Mason Schutt (kick blocked), 10:36
T—Griffin Shea 50 pass from Jayden Croft (Elijah Hill kick), 9:44
P—Schutt 2 run (pass fail), 6:49
T—FG Hill 32, 1:49
T—Shea 17 pass from Croft (Croft run), 1:45
T—Shea 22 pass from Croft (Hill), 1:28
P—Jones 57 pass from Schutt (Jones from Schutt), 11:17
P—J.J. Martin 25 pass from Schutt (pass fail), 7:00
T—Trevor Davis 7 run (Hill kick), 4:37
P—Jones 17 pass from Schutt (Trino Flores kick), 4:45
T—Davis 50 run (Hill kick), 4:37
P—Martin 7 pass from Schutt (Flores kick), 1:53
RUSHING—T, Christian Cummings 20-71, Davis 12-113, Easton Trakel 7-52, Croft 10-(minus 10). P, Schutt 15-48, Isaiah Sanders 5-25, Jones 1-9, Michael Kernan 2-8.
PASSING—T, Croft 9-14-1—199, Trakel 1-1-0—22. P, Schutt 27-49-1—406, Jones 0-1-0—0.
RECEIVING—T, Shea 3-89, Trakel 3-56, Zach Delucco 4-76. C, Jones 12-259, Martin 7-89, Sanders 3-51, Flores 2-9, Kyle Steinbock 1-6, Javier Diaz 1-2.