BLAINE - It's a call Meridian football coach Bob Ames and his staff had been waiting 18 days to make - going for 2 with the game on the line.
In fact, they got within 4 yards and a James Fakkema sack and forced fumble of making that exact same call on Oct. 12 in the regular-season meeting with Blaine, when they trailed by a touchdown in the closing seconds.
As luck would have it, Meridian found itself in a very similar situation in the waning seconds of the Class 1A Northwest District Playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 30 - trailing by a touchdown with the clock ticking down and deep in Borderites territory.
But this time there was no turnover, and Ames got to make his call.
Sam Chambers found Relijah McMillen on a 12-yard double-pass-play touchdown to pull the Trojans within one point, before Max McGuinn hit Trevin Todd over the middle for the 2-point conversion in an epic 15-14 victory that packed 48 minutes worth of excitement into a half game. Earlier in the evening, Meridian won another half game 34-6 over Couepville.
"As buggered up as we were, it was the only call to make," Ames said of the decision to go for 2. "It was the call we were going to make last time, too, when we got down to the 4. If you don't go for the gusto, you're not giving the kids a chance to win it on their own."
By winning it on their own, Meridian (7-4) moves on to the Class 1A Tri-District Playoffs and will travel to Eatonville and play for a shot to advance to the state playoffs. The time, date and location have yet to be set, but it is expected the game will be played Saturday, Nov. 3.
Blaine (6-4) had its hopes of advancing to state unceremoniously come to an end with the loss. The Borderites will still play a non-playoff crossover against Cedar Park Christian at Juanita High School at a time and date to be decided. It's likely the focus of that game will be giving running back Mario Gobbato a shot at surpassing the state's single-season rushing record. His 142 yards on Tuesday gives him 2,341 for the year, only 340 short of Jordan Todd's year-old record of 2,681.
But Blaine must first shake off the effects of what happened in the closing seconds against Meridian.
And while the Trojans' decision to go for 2 may have been a bold call, the play that set it up was downright gutsy.
The play is called Trips Left Liz 98 Double Pass.
"We've been working on it for a couple of weeks," McMillen said. "We never got to use it in a game until tonight, but it paid off."
The first-and-10 play from the Blaine 12 started out looking like a bubble screen pass from McGuinn to Chambers in the left flat.
"My job is to sell it like I'm blocking for Sam so the corner bites," McMillen said. "But their corner was really disciplined, and he stuck with me."
McMillen still managed to get open enough for Chambers to put up a pass through the steady rain, and McMillen had to dive for it in the end zone.
"I wasn't sure how he (the official) was going to call it," McMillen said. "I was bobbling it and close to the ground, but when he put his arms up, it was just an unbelievable feeling."
The official actually started to put his arms in the air, but pulled them down to confer with the rest of the officiating team to confirm the call. A few seconds later, it was official.
"I caught it," McMillen said. "I definitely caught it."
And with momentum on their side, Ames got to make the call he'd been waiting to make.
Todd made sure his coach wouldn't regret it, as he flashed open across the middle, and McGuinn hit him for the go-ahead points, causing most of the Meridian bench to take the field in celebration and bringing out a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
After the penalty, Blaine got one last chance from the Meridian 45, but Letrez Jones intercepted a pass to secure the victory.
Meridian actually jumped on top, when Neal Tilbury returned a fumble 27 yards for an interception, but 70- and 6-yard touchdown runs from Gobbato staked Blaine to the 14-7 lead.
"That game was a beauty," Ames said. "Our kids came out and played really hard and responded to the situation. Boy, are we lucky to get out of there with that one."
Meridian didn't need any luck in the first half game, as the Trojans dominated.
Only nine of Coupeville's 30 offensive snaps went for positive yardage. In fact, the Wolves gained only two first downs on runs or passes - their other four came via Meridian defensive penalties.
Meridian, meanwhile had no problems scoring, as every drive but their third, which ended with a fumble, and their last, which ended when time expired, concluded in the end zone.
The Trojans' first possession left little doubt about how the game was going to turn out, as Meridian marched 66 yards on 13 plays, and culminated with Jones' 2-yard touchdown run.
McGuinn then hooked up with McMillen for a 16-yard touchdown pass and Todd from 36 yards out to make it 20-0, before Chad Richter scooped up a fumble and returned it for another TD.
Junior Castro's 33-yard run capped off the scoring for Meridian in the game. Castro finished with 80 yards on seven carries in the half game, while Jones' seven attempts netted 51.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
Meridian 7 8 - 15
Blaine 8 6 - 14
Mer - Neal Tilbury 27 fumble return (Casey Bromet kick)
Bla - Mario Gobbato 70 run (Nate Kramme run)
Bla - Gobbato 6 run (run failed)
Mer - Relijah McMillen 12 pass from Sam Chambers (Trevin Todd pass from Max McGuinn)
First downs 7 6
Rushing Att-Yards 16-40 19-135
Comp-Att-Int 7-10-0 0-1-1
Passing yards 50 0
Penalties-yards 3-34 1-5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
RUSHING - Meridian: Letrez Jones 4-13, Junior Castro 8-7, Max McGuinn 4-20. Blaine: Mario Gobbato 17-142, Nat Kramme 2-(-7).
PASSING - Meridian: Max McGuinn 6-9-0-38, Sam Chambers 1-1-0-12. Blaine: Nate Kramme 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING - Meridian: Relijah McMillen 3-26, Sam Chambers 2-11, Trevin Todd 1-6, Junior Castro 1-7. Blaine: None.
Coupeville 0 6 - 6
Meridian 13 21 - 34
Mer - Letrez Jones 2 run (Casey Bromet kick)
Mer - Relijah McMillan 16 pass from Max McGuinn (kick failed)
Mer - Trevin Todd 36 pass from McGuinn (Bromet kick)
Mer - Chad Richter 12 fumble return (Bromet kick)
Coup - Jared Dickson 4 pass from Gunnar Langvold (pass failed)
Mer - Junior Castro 33 run (Bromet kick)
First downs 6 13
Rushing Att-Yards 14-(-40) 24-175
Comp-Att-Int 6-16-1 4-10-0
Passing yards 73 69
Penalties-yards 4-29 7-69
Fumbles-lost 4-1 1-1
RUSHING - Coupeville: Jake Tumblin 11-(-42), No. 12 1-1, Gunnar Langvold 2-1. Meridian: Junior Castro 7-80, Letrez Jones 7-51, Max McGuinn 6-28, Isaiah Thompson 2-10, Kevin Castro 1-(-2), Tanner Tutterrow 1-8.
PASSING - Coupeville: Jake Tumblin 3-10-0-74, No. 12 0-2-1-0, Gunnar Langvold 3-4-0-(-1). Meridian: Max McGuinn 4-10-0-69
RECEIVING - Coupeville: Riley Boyd 2-65, Wade Schaef 1-9, Jake Tumblin 1-1, Jared Dickson 1-4, Brett Arnold 1-(-6). Meridian: Sam Chambers 1-4, Relijah McMillen 2-29, Trevin Todd. 1-36.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.