AUBURN, Wash. – The Mead High football team was seemingly overcome by two opponents Saturday in a State 4A quarterfinals matchup: Auburn and the weather.
The host Trojans, a mirror image of the Panthers in terms of their run-oriented offense and overall physical play, beat Mead at its own game and emerged with a 21-7 victory.
Fifth-ranked Mead, losing for just the second time in 12 games, didn’t help its cause by fumbling five times (losing one) and suffering two interceptions under rainy conditions at Troy Field.
“The ball was slippery on certain plays but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Mead quarterback Gunnar Kayser said. “It was the same for them.”
“I just wish I could have had a couple of my throws back.”
Kayser completed just 6 of 13 passes for 55 yards and the two interceptions, and the Panthers’ normally vaunted rushing attack managed a pedestrian 167 yards.
Auburn, meanwhile, piled up 298 yards on the ground and 331 for the game as it advanced to a semifinals matchup against Bellarmine Prep.
“All of the credit goes to Auburn,” Mead coach Sean Carty said. “Most of the problems that we had, they caused.”
Not all, however.
Trailing 7-0 after Auburn’s Kieo Buchanan ran 4 yards for a touchdown to give the hosts a 7-0 lead with 3:44 left in the first period, Mead had an excellent opportunity to tie the game early in the second. The Panthers took possession of the ball at the Auburn 11-yard line following a botched punt snap, but failed to capitalize.
The culprits: A fumbled snap by Kayser and another put-it-on-the-turf play by backup quarterback Matt Wetzel. On third-and-12 from the 13, senior running back Davian Barlow managed eight yards to the 5, but on fourth down Barlow was stopped short of the first down and the goal line by Auburn linebacker Danny Velasco.
It was that kind of night for Mead.
“Our offense didn’t play its normal game,” Mead standout tight end and linebacker Danny Mattingly said. “Too many fumbles, penalties and mistakes.
“And defensively, we gave up plays that we usually don’t. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong tonight.”
Mead finally got on the board with a punishing 15-play, 80-yard march in the late third and early fourth periods. Barlow dashed 6 yards for the touchdown to cut Auburn’s lead to 14-7, and appeared to give Mead some much-needed momentum going into the game’s final minutes.
But Auburn, which was unranked all season, punched its ticket to the state semifinals with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended when 6-3, 235-pound Demontra McNealy dragged several Panthers across the goal line from 11 yards out.