Once the Freeman Scotties stopped beating themselves Saturday afternoon, they concentrated on taking down the visiting Cashmere Bulldogs.
Three Freeman turnovers allowed Cashmere to open a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Scotties threw a shutout thereafter.
And Freeman’s running game arrived just in time as the third-ranked Scotties rallied for a 28-20 win in a State 1A semifinal football game at Albi Stadium.
Freeman (13-0) heads to Tacoma to take on fourth-ranked Mount Baker (11-1) in the championship final next Saturday at 1 p.m. It’s the Scotties’ first trip to Tacoma since 2004.
When Cashmere (11-2) turned a fumble and two interceptions into three scores, it would have been easy to understand if Freeman felt pinned against the wall.
“We were a little nervous coming out,” Freeman coach Jim Wood said. “We just couldn’t get it clicking and I think we were playing on our heels, we were playing not to make a mistake.”
The Scotties’ defense began to stiffen. They forced Cashmere to go three-and-out on its next possession.
Freeman had the ball at its 33-yard line with 8:33 to go before halftime. Eleven plays later, quarterback Preston Hoppman hit running back Markus Goldbach on an 11-yard swing pass for the Scotties’ first touchdown.
The Scotties owned the second half. They pulled within 20-14 on their first third-quarter possession when Hoppman hit Jesse Kitterman on an 18-yard TD pass.
Freeman had the momentum.
Finally, Freeman took the lead when Goldbach capped a six-play drive by scoring behind the left side of his line from a yard out, and Nolan Laabs’ point-after kick put the Scotties ahead to stay at 21-20 with 10:06 remaining.
Freeman forced another Cashmere punt, setting up the Scotties’ final TD.
On third-and-4 at Cashmere’s 41, Goldbach took the handoff on a counter and followed left tackle Jordan Rose. As Goldbach neared the end zone, Kian Gentemen maintained his block.
“Rosie (Jordan Rose) got out in front of him so well and Kian just absolutely finished off the block on the goal line,” Wood said.
Moments later, Jack Paukert and Billy Sims combined for the defensive play of the game.
Cashmere running back Dylan Boyd broke upfield and was approaching Freeman’s 10 when Sims separated Boyd from the ball and Paukert recovered.
“I just saw him coming around the corner and (Sims) hit him,” Paukert said. “Then I saw the ball and dove on it. I had no doubt that we’d come back.”