KENNEWICK – Mike Schupp barreled in from the 1 with 4 seconds left, completing a remarkable comeback for Mt. Spokane in a 34-30 win over the Southridge Suns on Friday night that sent the Wildcats into the State 3A football playoffs.
Kadin Diaz scored from a yard out for the Suns (5-5) with 1:38 to play, culminating a two-minute, 56-yard drive.
Diaz turned in the big play earlier in the possession, a 41-yard rumble down the sideline on the drive’s second play. Quarterback Conner Grigg then hit Brenden Kelly on a 10-yard slant down to the 1, and Diaz scored on the next play.
With just 1:38 left on the clock and 80 yards to go for the run-oriented Wildcats (8-2), a comeback seemed improbable. But not to Mt. Spokane quarterback Stu Stiles, who gashed the Suns for 130 yards on the ground.
“I walked into the huddle and said, ‘Let’s win this,’ ” said Stiles, who delivered his most critical blows with his arm.
The first came with 40 seconds left and the ball just 15 yards farther down the field. Stiles sent a fluttering prayer down the left sideline that was hauled in by Dillon Madlener, who somehow slipped away from two defensive backs to come down with a 29-yard gain down to the Southridge 36 yard line.
Stiles delivered another first-down throw and spiked the ball with 17.2 seconds left.
Stiles then found Madlener again down the left sideline, this time around the 5. Madlener lunged away from a tackler and landed at the 2, and an unnecessary roughness penalty put the ball on the 1 with 7.2 seconds left.
With a timeout in its pocket, Mt. Spokane took a shot at the end zone, bringing in Schupp, who had scored on runs of 1, 1 and 22 yards on his only other carries of the night.
He added another 1-yard score, and the air went right out of Lampson Stadium.
“Hats off to them,” Stiles said. “They played a great game, and they fought to the end.”
Southridge seemed to be chasing the Wildcats all night, after Mt. Spokane took the opening kickoff and blew through the Suns defense, the start of a 300-yard rushing night.
Southridge answered that first score in one play – Grigg hitting Kelly on a deep throw out to midfield before the big-play receiver shook free of the corner, escaped the safety coming over and dashed away for a 72-yard score.
It was part of a 223-yard, three-touchdown night for Grigg against a Mt. Spokane team that has struggled against the pass. Kelly caught seven balls for 178 yards and two touchdowns, including a 27-yarder at the end of the third quarter for the Suns’ first lead, 23-20.
Southridge still was ahead and punting away the ball with just over 6 minutes left in the game when the Suns gave up the ball after their punter tried for the first down and was short. That gave Mt. Spokane the ball at the Southridge 39 with 6:09 left.
The Wildcats scored on a fourth-down play, setting up the remarkable finish.