TACOMA — The Neah Bay football team’s bid for a Class 1B state championship game berth came up one win short Friday night.
The Red Devils dug themselves an early 21-0 hole and never could recover against Pacific Coast League rival Lummi, falling 64-36 in the teams’ semifinal matchup at the Tacoma Dome.
Not only was it the Red Devils’ first loss of the season, but also their first defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks in three tries.
“We know we’re better than what we played today, but at the end of the day we came out with the loss,” Neah Bay junior Evan Bowechop said.
“It’s a tough way to end our season. [Going] 12-0 and to end it like that . . . that’s definitely not how I wanted to go out.
“The season was great, we just didn’t end it like we wanted to.”
Neah Bay (12-1) missed out on its first title game appearance in 10 years with the loss, and third in school history.
Instead, the PCL-North Division champions must settle for the program’s highest win total of the decade as well as their first visit to the state semifinals since 2005.
“It was an excellent season,” said second-year Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley. “I’m really proud of the kids.
“Lummi played us really tough. They are a little more experienced at this level than we are maybe, but we’re getting there.
“We’ve got a good group coming back next year, and I’m hoping for good things.”
Neah Bay had a lot of those in a pair of wins against Lummi (10-3) earlier in the season, including a 50-30 victory in the two squads’ last meeting in Week 9.
Yet playing on the turf of the dome, the Red Devils couldn’t find an answer for Lummi’s shotgun rushing attack, which went for 372 yards on 41 carries.
“I thought we matched up very well across the board,” Lummi coach Jim Sandusky said.
“On Monday and Tuesday, I had a defensive game plan in, and at the end of practice Tuesday we just weren’t getting it.
“[I decided] here’s the answer: We’ve got to let our athletes make plays. I’ve got to keep it simple.”
That worked particularly well for Eddy Williams, who ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for the Blackhawks.
Quarterback Titan Jameson added 138 yards of offense, and had a hand in five of the Blackhawks’ nine touchdowns.
“Their team speed on turf was better than ours,” McCaulley said. “I think that was really the key to the game. We were ready to play, it’s just their team speed really hurt us.”
Lummi scored touchdowns on all five of its first-half possessions, including three unanswered scores to begin the first quarter with a 21-0 lead.
Neah Bay had three long scoring plays of its own — a 55-yard run from Bowechop and passes of 36 and 58 yards from Drexler Doherty to Robert Moss — to keep Lummi from running away in the first half.
Yet the Blackhawks came out of the break with scoring drives on two of its first three offensive series to take an insurmountable 48-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
Neah Bay would get no closer than 20 points the rest of the way.
“We didn’t play as good as we could have, but it happens,” Doherty said.
“Lummi played pretty well on defense, but that’s not an excuse. We just didn’t execute our plays and started falling behind.
“With all the hard work for the whole year, it’s tough to go out this way.”
The Red Devils gained 385 total yards on the night.
Most of Neah Bay’s yardage came through the air, with the run game limited to 144 yards by Lummi.
Doherty completed 12-of-25 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and also caught a 51-yard scoring pass from Andy Pascua late in the fourth quarter.
Moss caught four balls for 121 yards and two scores, including a 58-yard Hail-Mary pass from Doherty to end the first half. He also recovered a Lummi fumble in the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Bowechop added 94 yards of offense and Titus Pascua 84 yards.
But in the end, it wasn’t enough to counteract an explosive performance from Lummi (432 total yards).
“We just didn’t come out ready for them on defense,” Bowechop said. “They changed a couple of things up and we couldn’t react to it the right way.
“We didn’t think that they were that quick [after the first two wins], but today it was a different game.”
The Red Devils graduate eight seniors from this year’s team, including Moss, Andy Pascua, Andrew Long, Robert Long, Jon Tolliver, Anthony Rascon, Cody Bartlett and V’Jay Buttram.
Yet with 19 players on the roster returning next year, McCaulley is confident this year’s run is only the beginning.
“We’re on the upswing,” McCaulley said. “I’ve got a really good group of young kids coming up, and we’ve got a real bright future.
“We hope to be back here next year.”
Lummi 64, Neah Bay 36
Lummi 21 14 13 16– 64
Neah Bay 6 14 0 16– 36
LU–E. Williams 2 run (Finkbonner run)
LU–Finkbonner 5 run (pass failed)
LU–Jameson 23 run (Robinson kick)
NB–Bowechop 55 run (pass failed)
LU–Hoskins 3 pass from Jameson (E. Williams kick)
NB–Moss 36 pass from D. Doherty (A. Pascua pass from D. Doherty)
LU–Robinson 17 pass from Jameson (Robinson kick)
NB–Moss 58 pass from D. Doherty (pass failed)
LU–E. Williams 40 run (kick failed)
LU–Jameson 1 run (Robinson kick)
NB–Moss fumble recovery in end zone (D. Doherty pass from A. Pascua)
LU–Jameson 6 run (James pass from Jameson)
NB–D. Doherty 51 pass from A. Pascua (J. Greene run)
LU–Robinson 53 kickoff return (Tom run)
Rushing– NB: Bowechop 5-78, T. Pascua 12-44, J. Greene 2-15, Tolliver 2-7, D. Doherty 7-(minus 11), A. Pascua 2-(minus 10). LU: E. Williams 13-179, Finkbonner 12-88, Jameson 9-78, Scott 3-24, Roberts 3-0, James 1-3.
Passing–NB: D. Doherty 12-25-1, 190; A. Pascua 1-2-0, 51. LU: Jameson 5-7-0, 60.Receiving–NB: Moss 4-121, T. Pascua 3-39, D. Doherty 1-51, Bowechop 2-16, A. Pascua 2-10, Tolliver 1-4. LU: E. Williams 1-17, Robinson 3-40, Hoskins 1-3.