Sonny Finley knew his Cusick football team could force No. 1-ranked Liberty Christian to vary from its standard offense Saturday afternoon.
He was just hoping that the Patriots’ answer wouldn’t be the difference.
In the end it was as Liberty Christian pulled off a double pass, resulting in a 65-yard touchdown, as the Patriots managed to hold off the Panthers 34-32 in a State 1B eight-man semifinal at Joe Albi Stadium.
“Their style of game wasn’t good enough to beat us,” Finley said. “They had to do some trickery – they had to dig in their playbook. That’s what it took. My hat’s off to them. They deserved to win. We deserved to win, too. I just wish we could both play in the (Tacoma) Dome.”
LC (13-0) will meet defending champ Neah Bay (13-0) in the state final next week.
Each team would score one more time after the trick play, but it was the deception that proved to be the difference.
Quarterback Mike Olson threw a pass well behind the line of scrimmage to Brandon Peterson, who threw back across the field to a wide-open John Lesser, and Lesser did the rest as he sprinted for the 65-yard score that put the Patriots back in front 26-24 with 8:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Lesser, a freshman who has gained more than 1,000 yards rushing, matched that big play with one more when he intercepted a Ryan Sample pass at the Patriots’ 45-yard line with 2:13 to go.
“I wanted the ball last, we had the ball last, we just couldn’t execute,” said Finley. “They’re a great team and we gave them everything we had.”
The Panthers had the Patriots doing something they hadn’t done all season – playing from behind. In fact, LC won all of its games by 40 points or more and never reached the final quarter.
After the teams exchanged opening TDs, Cusick scored two more touchdowns on a 6-yard pass from Sample to Derrick Bluff and a 23-yard pass from Sample to Gavin Peterson with 2:30 to go before halftime.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers gave back most of the momentum it took them a half to amass. Tyler Morris returned the kick 88 yards for a TD, pulling LC within 18-14 at the half.
When Cusick (12-1) took its final lead at 32-26 on a 4-yard run by Bluff with 6:11 left in the game, Finley knew the game was far from over.
“I knew we were going to have to play some defense,” he said.
LC marched 65 yards in eight plays with Olson scoring from 2 yards out. On the 2-point try, Olson got outside and beat the Panthers to the corner of the end zone as the Patriots led 34-32 with 2:43 to go.
Liberty Christian 34, Cusick 32
|Liberty Christian||6||8||6||14||- 34|
C-E. Peterson 5 run (pass failed)
LC-B. Peterson 48 pass from Olson (run failed)
C-D. Bluff 6 pass from Sample (run failed)
C-G. Peterson 23 pass from Sample (pass failed)
LC-Morris 88 kickoff return (B. Peterson pass from Olson)
LC-Lindquist 19 pass from Olson (run failed)
C-A. Bluff 23 pass from Sample (run failed)
LC-Lesser 65 pass from B. Peterson (run failed)
C-D. Bluff 4 run (E. Peterson run)
LC-Olson 2 run (Olson run)