TACOMA – It looked so promising for a half Friday for the Cusick Panthers.
In the final two quarters, though, the stronger and much more athletic Lummi Blackhawks took over and overcame a 24-16 halftime deficit to win going away, 55-30 in the State 1B championship football game at the Tacoma Dome.
“This might hurt for weeks, but be proud of what you accomplished,” Cusick coach Sonny Finley told his team at midfield before the Panthers and Blackhawks exchanged handshakes.
A month ago, reaching the state final didn’t look possible for Cusick after it was drubbed 54-6 by Almira/Coulee-Hartline in a postseason seeding game.
The Panthers fought back, changing things up, then getting revenge in the semifinals, reversing the loss to ACH.
Cusick (12-2) handled the state’s most prolific offensive 8-man team in the first half. The Blackhawks (13-1) appeared to have run into a stone wall.
Panthers senior quarterback Tyler Edwards accounted for all three Cusick touchdowns in the first half. In the second half, Lummi’s Eddy Williams took over, scoring three TDs.
The biggest change for the Blackhawks was they broke several tackles and ran over the Panthers in the second half. After rushing for 106 yards in the first half, Lummi finished with 368 on the ground and 144 passing.
It was too much for Cusick to overcome.
“We never gave up,” Finley said. “With 3 minutes left we were still giving it 100 percent. That’s Panthers football.”
On the game’s opening possession, Cusick put together an efficient drive, culminating with a 51-yard pass from Edwards to Derrick Bluff.
The Blackhawks responded with back-to-back touchdowns.
Cusick evened things at 16 when it drove 61 yards using 17 plays before Edwards hit Ryan Sample on a 9-yard out pattern 6:52 before halftime.
That’s when the Panthers’ defense stepped up.
Edwards stopped a potential Lummi TD when he intercepted a pass in the end zone.
The big defensive play in the first half came when defensive end Louie Bluff, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior, got in the middle of an attempted screen, intercepting the pass at Lummi’s 23-yard line and returning it to the 1.
Edwards scored on a sneak on the next play. When Sherm Norton fought his way into the end zone for the two-point conversion, it put the Panthers up 24-16 with 1:24 left in the half.
“Both teams battled,” Finley said. “Both should be proud of what they did. They (Blackhawks) are proud of what they accomplished and we’re proud of what we accomplished.”
Edwards completed 21 of 34 passes for 312 yards and three TDs. He was intercepted three times.
“I pour my heart and soul into this,” Finley said. “Not only me but the rest of my coaching staff. The kids worked so hard. … My hat is off to the Lummi Blackhawks, but I’m more proud of the effort that my boys gave.”