Chance Poasa stayed curled up on his knees at the 30-yard line. Coach Jim Sandusky did a somersault on the sideline, landing in the prone position.
If one play was hard to live with last season for the Lummi football team, how about one foot?
“One play” had been the Blackhawks’ mantra throughout the offseason as they attempted to get back to, and this time win, the Class 1B state championship game after coming “one play” away from winning a title in 2015.
Top-ranked Lummi saw its dream of getting back to the Tacoma Dome fall incomplete to the Everett Memorial Stadium turf on a fourth-down pass from Dashawn Lawrence to Poasa, as rival Neah Bay held on for a 28-22 victory in the state semifinal Saturday.
“It was one foot from a perfect pass,” Sandusky said. “One foot.”
Facing fourth and 13 from the Red Devils’ 48-yard line with two minutes left in the game, Lummi needed a first-down conversion to keep its hopes of driving for a potential tying or game-winning score. Sandusky called a timeout to settle his troops and asked Poasa to work his way out into the left flat.
The route worked perfectly, as the senior found himself without a Neah Bay defender within 15 yards. Lawrence spotted him and lofted a pass, but the ball sailed just inches beyond a diving Poasa’s outstretched fingers.
“You stress to them, ‘When they’re wide open, make it easy on them. You don’t need to hit them in stride. We just need the first down,’ ” Sandusky said. “They’re kids, and that’s the way it goes.”
Neah Bay (10-1) took over on downs and was able to run off all but 20 seconds with four runs. Lummi (11-1) took over at the Red Devils’ 46, tried to run the Stanford lateral play and ended up losing the ball on a fumble on the first play of the drive to end the game.
Though the incomplete pass stood out, it was far from the only play Lummi wishes it could have back, as the Blackhawks fell to 3-5 in state playoff meetings with Neah Bay over the past eight years.
“They’re great games, but it’s just the one plays – the one play where you either call a great offensive play or a great defensive play and we’ve got one player out of sync that doesn’t do their assignment,” Sandusky said. “That’s all it takes. The one-plays killed us tonight.”
Three came back-to-back-to-back early in the second quarter, when Lummi failed to score on second and goal from the 2.
“You’ve got to be able to punch it in when you’re on the 1-foot line,” Sandusky said. “That’s another one play.”
As were the multiple times Lummi had Neah Bay quarterback Rwehabura Munyagi trapped for what appeared to be big losses on passing plays, only to see him wiggle free from shoulder-high tackle attempts and scramble for a first down.
“How many times did we have him 15, 20 yards back?” Sandusky wondered. “Our guys tried to tackle him high.”
Lummi still held a 16-14 lead at halftime thanks to a 2-yard run by Raven Borsey and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Poasa in the second quarter. James Williams’ 20-yard touchdown reception gave Lummi a 22-14 advantage with 3:22 to play in the third, capping off an impressive 13-play, 91-yard drive that consumed seven minutes.
But in the fourth quarter Neah Bay’s Cameron Buzzell scored his third TD of the game on a 2-yard run, and Munyagi’s conversion tied it 22-22. On the Red Devils’ next possession, Munyagi found Kenrick Doherty Jr. from 31 yards for what proved to be the winning score.
The loss ended the high school careers for 10 seniors on the Blackhawks’ roster, including top receiving threat and leading defender Trazil Lane, who did not play because of an arm injury.
“It was definitely my funnest year to coach,” Sandusky said. “Great kids, great athletes, and obviously they’ll go on to do some great things in life. Hopefully they learned some lessons from what we taught them. You’re not going to win them all. We’re one play away from going to the championship game and last year we were one play away from winning it.”
NB – Cameron Buzzell 36 pass from Rwehabura Munyagi (run failed)
Lum – Raven Borsey 2 run (Free Borsey run)
NB – Buzzell 15 run (Kenrick Doherty Jr. pass from Munyagi)
Lum – Chance Poasa 25 pass from Dashawn Lawrence (Poasa pass from Lawrence)
Lum – James Williams 20 pass from Lawrence (run failed)
NB – Buzzell 2 run (Munyagi run)
NB – Doherty Jr. 31 pass from Munyagi (run failed)
RUSHING – Neah Bay: Rwehabura Munyagi 14-67, Cole Svec 12-46, Cameron Buzzell 12-30. Lummi: Raven Borsey 16-101, Free Borsey 10-15, Dashawn Lawrence 10-68, James Williams 1-10, Chance Poasa 1-(-9).
PASSING – Neah Bay: Rwehabura Munyagi 6-14-0-139. Lummi: Dashawn Lawrence 6-12-0-79, Raven Borsey 1-2-1-4, Free Borsey 1-1-0-1.
RECEIVING – Neah Bay: Cameron Buzzell 3-81, Kenrick Doherty Jr. 1-32, Cole Svec 1-11, Nate Tyler 1-15. Lummi: Free Borsey 3-24, Caleb Revey 1-1, Chance Poasa 2-35, James Williams 2-24.