There was no last-minute miracle this time for the Chiawana Riverhawks.
Unlike last year, where they scored 14 points in the final 55 seconds to beat Camas 27-26 for the WIAA 4A football title, Chiawana dug itself a 17-0 hole on Saturday night and lost the state championship to Bothell by a 24-14 score in the Tacoma Dome.
“The best team won,” said Chiawana coach Steve Graff. “They were better than us. We didn’t make the plays.”
The Cougars, who finished the season at 14-0, packed the box on defense, forcing the Riverhawks to throw the ball more than they wanted to.
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And that kept the ball out of standout running back Austin Urlacher’s hands for much iof the first half.
“The poor guy was running against nine in the box,” said Graff.
Urlacher did finish with 101 yards rushing, with 51 yards in the first half on just seven carries.
“They were good,” said Urlacher. “The frustrating part was that defensively we couldn’t stop them. So their offense ate up all the clock time.”
Dre Dorton, the Hawks’ outstanding reeiver/defensive back, said Bothell was just the better team on this night.
“They out-physicalled us,” said Dorton. “They were the better team and we made too many mistakes.”
The Cougars were missing their star running back, Sam McPherson, who injured his ACL a few weeks back.
But Bothell’s rushing game didn’t miss a beat.
Caleb Meyer rushed for 105 yards, and Damani St. John added 103 rushing.
And the Hawks had some chances in the first 24 minutes. They just couldn’t get any points on the board in the first half.
Quarterback Logan Ellsworth threw an interception into the end zone that stopped one drive, and kicker Matt Winn missed a 32-yard field goal attempt.
“In the first half, we’re inside the 20 twice, and we couldn’t come away with anything,” said Graff.
Bothell, on the other hand, drew first blood on the opening drive when Meyer scored from the 1, and kicker Steve Weedin had a 36-yard field goal.
That’s all the scoring there was in the first half.
On the other hand, Bothell’s 10-0 halftime lead could have been much bigger.
Weedin missed a 43-yarder when the ball hit the upright right as time expired.
Hawks DB Isaiah Richie also forced a turnover when he pulled off a corner blitz in the Red Zone, hitting Bothell quarterback Ross Bowers and forcing the ball loose. Christian Penny recovered.
Chiawana went into the lockerroom talking about the 2013 title game.
“We referenced last year, when we scored the two TDs in the final minute,” said Urlacher. “It was about never giving up.”
Graff reminded them about staying consistent.
“We talked about finishing off our drives,” he said.
But the Hawks couldn’t do it on the opening drive of the third quarter, and they had to punt.
Bowers, who is headed to California to play for the Golden Bears next year, marched the Cougars downfield and hit Dayzell Wilson for a 9-yard TD pass and a 17-0 lead.
Chiawana finally got going after that, using an 11-play, 51-yard drive that was finished by Urlacher on a 2-yard TD dive, cutting the Cougars lead to 17-7.
But Bowers responded with another drive, and he finished it off with a 4-yard run that was highlight-film worthy. He jumped toward the end zone, got hit, and flipped over into score. But he landed on his feet, sending the Bothell crowd into a frenzy.
It also gave the Cougars a 24-7 lead with just 6 seconds left in the third quarter. That was just too much for the Hawks to overcome — although Cortez Ruiz would score on a 37-yard pass play from Ellsworth.
It was a bittersweet finish to a great season for Chiawana, which finished 12-2. The team was cheered with a huge roar from the Chiawana fans after the game.
“I told out seniors afterward they finished their careers at 25-3,” said Graff. “That’s not bad.”
B—Caleb Meyer 1 run (Steve Weedin kick)
B—FG Weedin 36
B—Dayzell Wilson 9 pass from Ross Bowers (Weedin kick)
C—Austin Urlacher 2 run (Matthew Winn kick)
B—Bowers 4 run (Weedin kick)
C—Cortez Ruiz 37 pass from Logan Ellsworth (Winn kick)
RUSHING — B, Meyer 12-105, Damani St. John 17-103, Ross 4-32. C, Urlacher 21-101, Josh Wilson 2-5, Nate Murillo 2-4, Ellsworth 5-8.
PASSING — B, Bowers 17-19-0—216. C, Ellsworth 12-25-1—177, Dre Dorton 0-1-0—0.
RECEIVING — B, Wilson 6-121, Sean Hanrahan 3-28, St. John 2-19, Ryan Knight 2-15. C, Ruiz 5-111, Christian Penny 2-26, Wilson 2-22, Roman Ruiz 1-16.