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Cusick advances to State 1B football semifinals

If you’re going to run a Bluff when the game’s on the line, it had better be a very good bluff.

For the Cusick Panthers Friday night, Derrick Bluff was all of that and more.

The senior running back/defensive back returned the kickoff  95 yards for a touchdown to open the State 1B football playoff game with Touchet at Gonzaga Prep, then hauled in a touchdown pass with no time remaining to seal a thrilling 44-38 victory to earn a spot in the semifinals against Liberty Christian.

“This is my senior year,” he shrugged while wearing a huge smile. “We all have to give it everything we have because if we lose, we’re done.”

Bluff finished with five touchdowns for the 12-0 Panthers. He rushed for a score and hauled  in touchdown passes of 24, 57 and 14 yards from senior quarterback Ryan Sample.

In the end, it was Cusick’s inability to score on its 2-point conversion attempts that left the door open for Touchet to mount a comeback.

Cusick scored three first-quarter touchdowns, but missed on all three 2-point tries, to build an 18-0 lead after one quarter. The Panthers scored twice more in the second quarter and managed one conversion to lead 32-16 at the half. In the second half, Touchet discovered that the best way to call Cusick’s Bluff was to keep the Panthers offense off the field, closing to 38-30 with 5:12 left in the game.

Then Touchet recovered an onside kick at the Cusick 49.

Vicente Flores then scored on a fourth-down pass to tie the game with 3:06 remaining.

“It got pretty frustrating to not get our offense on the field,” Sample said. “But we were determined to go down and score there.”

It took two tries for the Cusick offense to make it work.

Sample got the Panthers to the Touchet 24 with 1:06 left in regulation, but his pass was picked off by Flores.

Touchet moved the ball to midfield, but on third-and-10 at midfield, Martinez was picked off by Bluff at the Cusick 37 and the senior weaved his way to the end zone with what would have been the go-ahead TD with 3 seconds left.

But a flag for an illegal block at the 4-yard line nullified the score and gave Cusick one last play in regulation from the Touchet 14.

Sample then found Bluff on an out pattern for the touchdown on the final play.

“We’ve run that same play over and over again now for four years,” he grinned. “And he made me look real good on it.”

Liberty Christian 70, LaCrosse-Washtucna/Kahlotus 8: Reace Howard ran for 227 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Patriots (12-0) past the Tigercats (8-4) in a State 1B quarterfinal at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco.

LaCrosse-Washtucna/Kahlotus’ lone score came on Joey Guske’s 4-yard pass to Sam Harder in the fourth quarter.