A 14-point fourth-quarter lead wasn’t enough for the Mt. Spokane Wildcats.
The visiting Rainier Beach Vikings scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to steal a 28-21 victory in the first round of the State 3A playoffs at a cold and misty Albi Stadium.
Vikings quarterback Max Nall scrambled for a 21-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 44 seconds to play to give Rainier Beach the win. The ensuing Mt. Spokane drive stalled at the 28-yard line.
“I’m proud of the way we competed,” Mt. Spokane head coach Terry Cloer said. “They’re a heck of a football team. They have a bunch of D-1 guys that run around and we played well.”
Rainier Beach’s size and athletic advantage were evident. But the Wildcats used a tenacious defense to pressure Nall throughout the game, forcing him into scrambles and dangerous plays.
And it was the Wildcats’ defense that helped Mt. Spokane turn three turnovers into 21 points.
It started when Devan Nelson stripped Nall and pounced on the ball in the end zone to tie the game at 7.
It continued when Rainier Beach fumbled the second-half kickoff and Mt. Spokane recovered. Seven plays later, quarterback Brady Hill ran in from 2 yards out, flipping over the Vikings’ defenders and landing on his feet in the end zone to give the Wildcats a 14-7 lead.
On Rainier Beach’s next possession, Cole Hattenburg took an interception 43 yards to the end zone to give Mt. Spokane some cushion.
Mt. Spokane’s defense then forced a turnover on downs at its 4-yard line. The momentum seemed to be entirely on the Mt. Spokane sideline.
But it was short-lived.
The Wildcats punted and Rainier Beach led a 10-play, 63-yard drive to get within seven. Jeremiah Sio ran in from 5 yards out. The Vikings faced two fourth downs on that drive and survived each time.
The teams combined for five lost fumbles, and the fifth was costly.
Hattenburg lost the ball on his 36-yard line and Xzavier Burton recovered. Freddie Roberson then scored from 11 yards out, but the point-after attempt failed because of a bungled snap.
The Wildcats had a one-point lead and the ball but failed to milk the clock. They went three-and-out and punted.
Soon, Nall clinched the win with his 21-yard scramble.
“We don’t have a single D-1 guy and they have something like six on their offense,” Cloer said. “We were flying around. We knew it’d take a team effort to tackle and corral them. Give (Rainier Beach) credit. They made the plays when they needed to.”
Nall finished with 222 yards passing and one touchdown, an impressive 30-yarder to Anthony Stell after a long scramble. Stell finished with seven catches for 74 yards and one touchdown.
Hill finished with 140 yards passing and a rushing touchdown.
The Vikings will play either Peninsula or Mountain View in the next round. Those teams meet Saturday.