Alex Myrick started Saturday’s Class 1A state semifinal game with a big play on defense. Ended it that way, too.
In between, Royal’s outstanding senior quarterback made play after play to spark the offense.
Nothing new there. Except that against a battle-tested River View squad, his Knights needed every ounce of effort.
Myrick threw for two touchdowns, ran for two more and accounted for almost 400 yards of total offense in leading Royal to a 31-28 win over River View at Lampson Stadium.
“It’s exciting. We want to be in the state (championship) game. We’re happy,” said Myrick, adding that a loss “would kill us. It would kill the whole community as well.”
Royal City can hold off on the EMTs and doctors, and instead will make plans to trek to the Tacoma Dome next Saturday for a 10 a.m. kickoff in the Class 1A championship game. The Knights (13-0) will face Montesano (11-2), a 28-6 winner over Mt. Baker in the other semifinal.
Myrick scored from 10 yards out behind a terrific block from Carter Christensen and also ran in the 2-point conversion less than a minute into the fourth quarter to get Royal back on top after River View had stolen all the momentum with a third-quarter charge.
The Panthers’ defense created a trio of turnovers in the period — Austin Weatherby recovered a fumble, Ricky Castillo batted a pass that landed in the arms of 280-pound tackle Spencer Combs, and Kody Bartlett sacked Myrick to force another fumble that Castillo caught out of the air.
River View (11-2) cashed in two of those for touchdowns — 1-yard runs by Bartlett and QB Ruvim Tyutyunnik — for a 28-23 lead after falling into a 13-point hole to start the game.
“Just keep our heads up, and we can come back and try to get back in the game,” said Bartlett, who ran for 98 yards and supplied heavy defensive pressure on Myrick with two sacks and another tackle for a loss.
Tyutyunnik threw for 188 yards, hooking up with Cody Hand and Josh Marshall on first-half touchdowns. Marshall finished with four catches for 93 yards.
Royal outgained River View 470-324, with 268 yards on the ground. However, the Panthers made their SCAC East rivals work for those yards (46 carries).
“They did a good job bringing pressure from the outside and bringing our running game a little under control,” Royal coach Wiley Allred said.
Didn’t hurt coming up with four turnovers.
“Turnovers killed us,” Myrick said. “But I think it was great. We got to see what the guys would do.”
Indeed, in a season littered with 40-, 50- and 60-point wins, the Knights rarely have been challenged this season. Their closest game had been a 39-7 win over River View midway through the regular season.
That makes their response to getting a figurative fist to the schnoz from River View that much more impressive.
Like they have so many times this season, the Knights got out to a big start, with Myrick picking off a pass near midfield on the opening drive to set up the first score — a backside screen to Brady Dixon that turned into a 49-yard touchdown.
Royal followed that with a 10-play, 70-yard drive that mixed runs and short passes to perfection, culminating in Myrick’s 3-yard TD keeper.
But whereas previous opponents wilted away, River View found its footing and fought back.
A stripped ball recovered by Terran Brown near midfield started one scoring drive, which featured a lot of Bartlett between the tackles and finished with Tyutyunnik and Hand connecting on a 21-yard touchdown on fourth-and-12.
The River View defense stood up after Royal recovered a fumble on the Panthers’ 16, getting the ball back on downs.
That started an 82-yard drive for River View that used a couple Bartlett runs to get to midfield, then a pair of Marshall catches to first get into scoring position and then the end zone.
“We came out wide-eyed, but we broke through that mental barrier,” River View coach Brett Jay said. “We know it’s a four-quarter game.”
And in the fourth quarter, the Panthers made one final push to win their first state semifinal game.
Starting at its own 18 with 7:54 to play, River View got to midfield when Alonso Mendoza bounced outside for a 24-yard pickup. Three plays later, Tyutyunnik hit Marshall for 20 yards on fourth-and-9.
But the Panthers soon were back on fourth down at the Royal 23, this time needing less than a yard. They brought in their full-house look that plowed the road for the 1-yard scores in the third quarter.
This time, the play was a pitch to Mendoza outside. However, a hiccup on the fake dive up the middle cost valuable time, and Myrick sniffed out the play from his safety spot for a 2-yard loss.
It effectively ended River View’s hopes of a comeback, with a pair of Royal first downs killing off the final three minutes.It also ended the best season in River View history.
“It’s great playing with this team,” said Bartlett, a senior. “This sucks. I wanted to keep playing with this team, but we fell short.”
Emerging from a tearful locker room, Jay had nothing but admiration for his team.
“When a sport is six months long, and you see these guys every day, it makes it bigger than just a high school football game,” he said. “You create relationships that last forever.”
River View 0 14 14 0 — 28
Royal 13 8 2 8 — 31
R—Brady Dixon 49 pass from Alex Myrick (Christian Guerrero kick), 10:26
R—Myrick 3 run (kick failed), 5:54
RV—Cody Hand 21 pass from Ruvim Tyutyunnik (Alonso Mendoza kick), 7:52
RV—Josh Marshall 6 pass from Tyutyunnik (Mendoza kick), 1:50
R—Kent Christensen 5 pass from Myrick (Dixon from Myrick), :26
R—Safety, ball snapped out of end zone, 7:59
RV—Kody Bartlett 1 run (Mendoza kick), 6:29
RV—Tyutyunnik 1 run (Mendoza kick), 3:44
R—Myrick 10 run (Myrick run), 11:16
RUSHING—RV, Bartlett 15-98, Mendoza 13-28, Tyutyunnik 10-13, Dylan Thomas 1-1. R, Myrick 28-187, Damien Delarosa 15-66, Laddie Goroski 2-11, Dixon 1-4.
PASSING—RV, Tyutyunnik 10-20-1-188. R, Myrick 12-24-1-202.
RECEIVING—RV, Marshall 4-93, Hand 3-54, Terran Brown 2-40, Mendoza 1-1. R, Goroski 4-61, Dixon 3-69, Guerrero 3-66, Christensen 2-8.
INTERCEPTIONS—RV, Spencer Combs 1-4. R, Myrick 1-0. SACKS—RV, Bartlett 2-(minus 11), Kyle Hall 1-(minus 5). R, Marcos Morales 1-(minus 9).
FIRST DOWNS—RV 12, R 21. FUMBLES-LOST—RV 2-1, R 3-3. PENALTIES-YARDS—RV 6-41, R 4-30.