KENNEWICK – In four frenetic minutes, Dylan Hartz made three huge plays to give Lind-Ritzville/Sprague a big lead it wouldn’t relinquish Saturday.
The junior quarterback recovered a fumble, completed a 59-yard pass and returned an interception for a touchdown to help the Broncos (12-0) jump out to an early lead in a 21-7 victory over Waitsburg-Prescott in the State 2B football semifinals at Lampson Stadium.
“We knew they were tough and we had to get up early,” Hartz said. “It’s all the guys. They make me look good.”
The victory puts Lind-Ritzville/Sprague into the 2B state championship game against Morton-White Pass at 4 p.m. Friday in the Tacoma Dome.
Saturday, Hartz connected with Cort Ruzicka on a 59-yard screen pass setting up Conner O’Neill’s 7-yard run to lead 6-0.
Two plays later, he recovered a fumble to give the Broncos the ball at midfield. He ended that drive with a 20-yard TD completion to Ruzicka for a 14-0 lead after the pair combined on another pass on the 2-point conversion.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, he intercepted Waitsburg-Prescott’s Stirling Eastman and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 13 seconds left in the first quarter.
Just like that, the defending state champions were reeling.
“Here’s a kid who was the starting point guard and shortstop as a freshman, starting quarterback as a sophomore – he knows the game,” LRS coach Greg Whitmore said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete … our franchise.”
Hartz added another interception and threw for 159 yards to cap a remarkable first half.
It was all part of a solid effort that sends the Broncos back to the Tacoma Dome for the first time since 2004, when they won the state title.
Not bad for a team which was starting two former running backs on the offensive line and was facing a team which beat them 42-7 in last year’s semis.
“Our kids don’t question where the coaches ask them to play,” Whitmore said. “Our team was a lot of sophomores last season; we were outmanned. I couldn’t have written this script to face them again, but it wasn’t about revenge. It was about playing as well as we can.”
The Broncos didn’t play perfect, but it was good enough to win on this day. A couple of miscues kept Waitsburg-Prescott in the game, but the Broncos’ defense held at the end.
“This is crazy,” Hartz said. “All year long, we knew we were the dark horses and no one saw us coming.
“Even this game people thought we were the underdogs. I’m just so happy we came out on top.”
Hartz finished 11 for 19 for 238 yards and a touchdown, while O’Neill rushed 19 times for 70 yards and score.
LRS-O’Neill 7 run (kick failed)
LRS-Ruzicka 20 pass from Hartz (Ruzicka pass from Hartz)
LRS-Hartz 38 interception return (Leffel kick)
WP-Leroue 13 pass from Eastman (Estes kick)