PASCO – It had a defensive tone from the outset Saturday afternoon. In the end, a stop propelled the Ferris Saxons into the State 4A football semifinals for a fourth straight year.
The third-ranked Saxons were cruising along leading 13-0 with 9:38 remaining in the game, but suddenly Ferris had to find a way to fend off the Chiawana Riverhawks on fourth-and-7 from the 12-yard line with 28 seconds to go.
Chiawana quarterback Luc Graff rolled right and Ferris lineman Drew Sharkey was in pursuit when Graff’s pass into the end zone sailed well above the coverage and his intended target, allowing the Saxons to prevail 13-7 at Edgar Brown Stadium.
Ferris (12-0) returns to Albi Stadium next Saturday to meet Bellarmine Prep (11-1), which rallied from a 21-0 deficit to upset Bothell. The winner advances to the state championship game a week later.
For a game that lacked drama for most of three quarters, the Ferris-Chiawana matchup couldn’t have had a more dramatic ending.
“It was a crazy game,” Ferris senior two-way lineman Dillon Beschel said. “It’s just football. Anything can happen and all of a sudden momentum can shift. What it really kind of came down to is we had to buckle down. It’s a testament to what guys have done, the work that we’ve put in. That’s what it came down to – playing with heart.”
For no particular reason, Beschel was carrying the Saxons’ team flag off the field. For most of the game he anchored a defensive line that endured Chiawana’s pound-it-down-your throat approach.
“They were extremely physical,” Beschel said. “They’re the best team we’ve played (so far). After watching all the film, we knew their go-to stuff was zone and counter (runs). We knew they were going to try to outman us at the point of attack.”
It wasn’t until well into the fourth quarter, though, that the Riverhawks (10-1) finally gained some traction on the Saxons.
Despite trailing 13-0, Chiawana stuck to its run-first game plan. Starting from their 20 with 9:38 to go, the Riverhawks ran 15 plays before Graff found Charles Edrington on a 9-yard out for a touchdown.
The problem, though, is six minutes eclipsed from the clock. It appeared all Ferris had to do when it started its next possession at the 33 was get one first down and the game would be in hand.
On the Saxons’ first play, quarterback Ben Goodwin took the snap in the usual shotgun formation and started to move toward the line of scrimmage. But he dropped the ball and had to scramble to maintain possession, losing 3 yards.
Ferris had to punt moments later, and Chiawana took over at its 40 with 2:03 remaining.
On the Riverhawks’ first play, running back Jordan Downing picked up 5 yards and Ferris was called for a facemask penalty. That advanced the ball to the Saxons’ 40.
Chiawana got to the 30 and on third-and-12, Graff connected with Edrington for a 15-yard gain.
A short swing pass picked up 3 yards, but consecutive incompletions stalled the Riverhawks and sealed the victory for Ferris.
“Completely to their credit they fought back and they never gave up,” Beschel said. “They scared us there, definitely, for a second. It was a good thing that we kept our composure. I’m proud of the team for doing that, for buckling down at the end and bending but not breaking.”
Ferris coach Jim Sharkey agreed.
“We told the kids before the game – 3-2, 49-48 (final score) – it doesn’t matter. Just find a way and that’s what they did.”
Chiawana coach Steve Graff thought a key was the Saxons’ ball control.
“They kept the ball away from us quite a bit,” Graff said. “We had them in some situations in the first half and should have got them stopped and we didn’t. They’re a better football team than we are. They’ve got better guys. We battled. Our kids weren’t going to quit. They battled the whole way.”