SPOKANE — In one of the finest high school football games Touchet coach Gary Dorman had ever seen, his team came out on the losing end.
The Indians lost 44-38 on a diving touchdown pass with no time left, as heavily favored Cusick escaped with a Class 1B state quarterfinal victory Friday at Gonzaga Prep School in Spokane.
Dorman told his broken and crying team to hold their heads high after the Indians saw their dreams of a semifinal date with Liberty Christian dashed.
“It’s crushing, but on Monday we were 60-point underdogs,” Dorman said. “And I knew our kids weren’t 60-point underdogs to anyone.”
The Indians appeared poised to stage an epic rally, as they scored two touchdowns in the final 5 minutes to pull into a 38-38 tie.
Cusick then was driving in the final minute, but Vicente Flores intercepted a pass near the goal line and returned it to midfield.
After a first down, Touchet was poised to either score the game-winner or go into overtime, but quarterback Elias Martinez was intercepted by Derrick Bluff. Bluff returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, only to see it called back by a block in the back.
On the next play, he caught a diving touchdown pass from Ryan Sample to set off a wild celebration by the Cusick sideline.
“We do that isolation to me in the corner and hope I catch it,” Bluff said of the pass. “That was a good ball.”
While Bluff was all smiles after the game, the Touchet players openly wept as a victory that was so firmly in their grasp slipped away.
“We knew we had it, we just had to step up on defense,” Flores said of the comeback. “I’m so proud of everyone here. This was the best four years of my life.”
Flores was a big reason the Indians were in contention. With his team trailing 38-30, he kicked off and recovered the onside kick. Four plays later, he outjumped the defense for a pass and ran 49 yards for a score on a fourth-and-10 play.
He then caught the ensuing 2-point conversion to tie the game at 38-38 and set up the wild finish.
“These kids bought into a whole different program than was traditional at Touchet,” Dorman said. “And I thought it came through tonight. We have some kids who didn’t quit.”
Touchet 0 16 8 14 — 38
Cusick 18 14 6 6 — 44
C—Derrick Bluff 95 kickoff return (pass failed), 11:41
C—D. Bluff 24 pass from Ryan Sample (run failed), 7:59
C—D. Bluff 1 run (pass failed), 2:24
T—Colter McKeown 5 run (Jose Martinez run), 5:30
C—D. Bluff 57 pass from Sample (Jestin Brazda pass from Sample), 3:25
T—Elias Martinez 45 run (J. Martinez run), 1:47
C—Alec Bluff 10 pass from Sample (run failed), :36
C—Elijah Peterson 27 run (pass failed), 7:48
T—McKeown 23 run (Octavio Preciado run), 5:23
T—J. Martinez 1 run (run failed), 5:12
T—Vicente Flores 49 pass from E. Martinez (Flores from Martinez), 3:06
C—D. Bluff 14 pass from Sample, :00
Rushing—Touchet: Preciado 25-114, E. Martinez 14-87, J. Martinez 8-22, McKeown 2-28, Flores 2-8, Cori Ochoa 1-0, team 2-(-11). Cusick: Sample 10-43, D. Bluff 6-41, Peterson 4-41, A. Bluff 2-14.
Passing—Touchet: E. Martinez 2-9-1–65, team 0-1-0—0. Cusick: Sample 17-23-1—234.
Receiving—Touchet: Flores 2-65. Cusick: D. Bluff 7-130, A. Bluff 6-76, Devlin Sheridan 3-25, Gavin Peterson 1-3.
Sacks—Touchet: none. Cusick: Nolan Finley 3-20.
Interceptions—Touchet: Flores 1-32. Cusick: D. Bluff 1-61.
First downs: T 14, C 17. Fumbles-lost: T 2-0, C 2-0. Penalties-yards: T 3-20, C 7-58. Punts-Avg.: T 2-38, C 1-32.