A difficult season for the University Titans looked like it was about to end with further disappointment.
North Central do-everything senior Quinn Zerba picked off a Jeff Beaty pass with just less than two minutes remaining and NC leading by six. But an impressive defensive stand by U-Hi gave the Titans new life with 51 seconds to play.
That’s when Beaty connected with Trevor Martin for a 70-yard touchdown pass that sent the U-Hi sideline and crowd into a frenzy. Martin completed the tense task by kicking the extra point. The U-Hi defense stopped NC in the final seconds and the Titans came away with a 25-24 victory. The win gives U-Hi (2-7) the Greater Spokane League’s third and final 3A postseason berth. NC (1-8) will play Rogers in a nonleague game on Thursday.
“That’s just what makes high school so cool,” said U-Hi head coach Rob Bartlett. “Kids go out and make plays when they have to. I tip my hat to North Central. They played so well, and it’s a shame that both of us don’t get to go on.”
An elated Beaty, draped by friends and Titans fans, said he took advantage of the 51 seconds his defense gave him.
“I just knew that we had another chance,” he said. “We had another chance to put it in the end zone, and we did it.”
It was all NC in the first half, with the Indians scoring on their first play from scrimmage when Zerba raced 72 yards. Austin Johnson kicked a field goal and receiver Marcus Saugen’s score extended the lead. Zerba added a 53-yard TD run, while U-Hi got points via a safety. NC went into halftime up 24-2.
“We had to tweak what we were doing with our protection a little bit,” Barlett said of the team’s second-half adjustments. “We had to open it up a little bit to get our run game back.”
Michael Prothero started the comeback by intercepting Zerba on the first drive of the second half. U-Hi slowly came to life, and were gifted another safety early in the third quarter. Bryce Williamson rushed for two touchdowns to get the Titans within six points.
Zerba threw two second-half interceptions, and U-Hi’s front seven limited Zerba’s ground attack as well, which helped set up the last-second heroics.
University will play Kamiakin in a 3A play-in game on Friday at 8 p.m. at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick.