The Meridian football team claimed a back-and-forth affair 34-29 over Cascade Christian Friday night in a battle of teams ranked in the top 10 in Class 1A.
The Trojans (3-0), who beat Cascade Christian in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs last year, entered the non-league game ranked ninth, while the Cougars entered at No. 4.
Meridian started strong, scoring three touchdowns in the first half to take a 22-8 lead. All three came on the arm of senior Simon Burkett, the Eastern Washington University commit. He had two deep bombs, a 67-yarder on the fourth play from scrimmage, and a 73-yard pass in the second quarter.
Cascade Christian came out swinging in the second half, though, as the Cougars scored two touchdowns in the first three minutes after halftime, and took a lead toward the end of the third quarter.
However, a 1-yard pass to junior Harlon Stuit put the Trojans ahead 34-29 with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter, and a late interception by junior Dawson Logan sealed the victory.
Star of the game
Burkett threw for 310 yards, going 25 for 37 and racking up four touchdowns on the night.
He also rushed 11 times, leading the team with 58 yards. He was able to extend plays repeatedly when under pressure, ducking and rolling before finding his man.
Turning point of the game
With about seven minutes left in the game, senior Manny Sabalza got his hands on a Cougars punt, five Meridian the ball at the Cougars 20. That set up the final touchdown that put Meridian ahead for good.
The game was over when
With a minute left, the Cougars were starting to build momentum and threaten Meridian’s tenuous five-point lead. But Logan made a great jump on a ball thrown by Parker Johnson and secured the game-clinching interception.
“It just felt good – you know your team is going to finish it (after that),” Logan said.
Unsung hero of the game
Senior Tony Schleimer had a great night, hauling in five passes for 111 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown to start off the scoring.
He also rushed four times for 12 yards.