In a 3-minute span just before halftime, the Ferris-Richland first-round State 4A football playoff game went from a three-point margin to the Saxons leading 31-7.
With the offense out of synch in the second half, the Saxons’ defense locked down the visiting Bombers in a 33-17 victory before a meager crowd of 2,270 at Albi Stadium.
Third-ranked Ferris (11-0) will travel in the quarterfinals next week to either Chiawana (10-0) of Pasco or Newport of Bellevue (7-3). Those teams play today at Pasco.
“I was hoping to go in 17-7 (at halftime) and all of a sudden it’s 31-7 so it was huge,” coach Jim Sharkey said of the final minutes of the second quarter.
Ferris drove 66 yards in 11 plays capped by a 34-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ben Goodwin to senior receiver Jordan Tonani that extended the Saxons’ lead to 17-7 with 4:28 to go before halftime.
The Saxons didn’t allow many third-down conversions in the regular season. Fewer yet were fourth-down conversions. They were licking their chops when Richland (9-2), trailing 17-7, went for it on fourth-and-three at its 37-yard line.
Ferris senior defensive lineman Russell Stinson sacked Richland quarterback Colter Quick for an 8-yard loss, and the Saxons’ offense converted three plays later when Goodwin hit senior receiver Riley Stockton on a 34-yard scoring pass.
“I was a little curious,” Sharkey said of the Bombers’ decision to keep their offense on the field on fourth down. “I thought they were going to try to draw us offside, but I was really proud of our kids for staying focused and making a play. It was a big play.”
Moments later, the defense struck again. Senior defensive end Dillon Beschel forced Colter to fumble and junior lineman Drew Sharkey scooped up the ball and returned it 4 yards for a TD.
“We could just feel the momentum shift,” Drew Sharkey said. “We put so much effort into this game. The momentum shift felt amazing.”
Richland used a field goal in the third quarter to account for the only scoring of the period.
Then after two rare defensive breakdowns by the Saxons, Richland pulled within 31-17 when Jake McKinney scored on a 10-yard run with 11:17 to go.
“The game was still on in the fourth quarter,” Jim Sharkey said. “They got it to a two-score game and we had to keep playing, and we made a few uncharacteristic mistakes on offense so our defense had to slow them down.”
Sharkey admitted that the Saxons probably got too conservative on offense in the second half. But he was trying to run time off the clock, too.
“We were a little bit (conservative),” he said. “Even then we had drives going but we made mistakes. What was really our downfall were penalties. We had some backbreaking penalties that put us in long yardage.”
Beschel, Stinson and senior linebacker Grant Livingston combined to tackle Quick in the end zone for a safety with 2:21 to go.
They were in on several stops, and Stinson seemed to be everywhere.
“Russell’s a beast,” Drew Sharkey said. “He plays so hard and so fast. He has that wrestler’s mentality. He gets after people and he’s relentless.”
The Saxons held Richland to 193 yards total offense, 157 of which was picked up by McKinney on 31 carries.
Ferris had 357 yards total offense. The usually efficient Goodwin completed 15 of 19 passes for 229 yards and three TDs. Stockton had four catches for 114 yards and two TDs.
“Ben threw the ball well and we found some things that were there,” Jim Sharkey said. “He took advantage. He made some really big-time throws.”