Neah Bay’s Adan Ellis goes for a reception at the Apple Bowl in Wenatchee in the state 1B semifinal football game. Ellis had three touchdown catches in the game. Defending on the play are Liberty Bell’s Bodie Thompson (20) and Greyden Paz (13). (Al Camp)

Neah Bay’s Adan Ellis goes for a reception at the Apple Bowl in Wenatchee in the state 1B semifinal football game. Ellis had three touchdown catches in the game. Defending on the play are Liberty Bell’s Bodie Thompson (20) and Greyden Paz (13). (Al Camp)

STATE 1B FOOTBALL SEMIFINALS: (Updated) Neah Bay’s deep playoff runs comes to an end

WENATCHEE — For the second straight year, the Paz siblings and the Liberty Bell football team was just a little too much for Neah Bay as the Red Devils were beaten 64-34 in the state 1B semifinals held at the Apple Bowl in Wenatchee.

Neah Bay’s season came to a close with a 9-3 record and a second straight trip to the semifinals. Last year, with many of the same players, Liberty Bell beat Neah Bay 50-12 in the 1B finals.

The good news for the Red Devils is that they only graduate four players, only two of whom get significant playing time. Almost all of their starters will be back next year for another run to state. Liberty Bell likewise doesn’t graduate many players so it would not be surprising if the two teams meet again in the postseason next year.

“You never want to lose, but we are pleased with how far this group was able to get this far,” said head coach TJ Greene. “It was a big deal last week to get a state playoff victory with his young group [52-20 over Liberty Christian], so they have an idea of what it takes to make that leap.”

The Red Devils couldn’t solve Liberty Bell’s passing game as quarterback Lucien Paz was 15-for-21 for 374 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 131 yards on 12 carries with another two touchdowns.

Remy Paz caught eight passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns and ran five times for 75 yards. He also had an interception. Liberty Bell finished with 580 yards of offense.

Jodell Wimberley sustained an ankle injury early in the game. While Wimberley gutted it out and played most of the game, Greene said it was definitely a factor, especially on defense. Wimberley plays defensive back and was limited in how well he could cover Remy Paz.

Greene said that in the 2022 matchup with the two teams, Wimberley was able to stick with Remy Paz step-for-step.

“It did affect the game, especially defensively,” Greene said. “It was our best athletes against their best athlete. [The injury] disrupted that plan for sure.”

Neah Bay had 286 yards of offense itself and some big plays, but with Wimberely hobbled, the Red Devils weren’t as explosive on offens. Wimberley toughed it out and had some big kick returns but didn’t seem to have his usual burst of speed against the Mountain Lions.

“He was limping the whole game, but the adrenaline kicked in. He had a pretty bad sprain,” coach Greene said.

With Wimberley limping, the Red Devils went to their passing game, throwing the ball far more than usual. Mathias Greene passed the ball 29 times with 16 completions and four touchdowns, three of them to Adan Ellis. Makyah Chambers had a solid game from the receiver position.

Greene also made the play of the game in the fourth quarter to get the Red Devils back in the game. As he rushed the quarterback, he tipped a pass from Lucien Paz, caught it in midair behind the line of scrimmage and then ran the ball 20 yards down to the 1-yard line to set up a quick touchdown.

Despite giving up four long touchdown plays, Neah Bay looked to be right in the thick of the contest late in the first half.

Down 28-6 with just 3:01 left in the half, the Red Devils had a quick drive down the field with Greene hitting Ellis for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left. After a Tyler Swan 2-point run, Neah Bay looked like it was going in to the halftime break down just 28-14, a tenuous lead in eight-man football.

But disaster struck for the Red Devils as Lucien Paz had a 12-yard run, then hit Remy Paz with a 46-yard touchdown pass with only 1.9 seconds left in the half. The Mountain Lions were able to convert a 23-yard 2-point attempt to take a 36-14 lead into the half.

Liberty Bell was able to extend the lead to 56-20 halfway through the second half when Neah Bay regained some momentum with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Greene to Ellis with 59 seconds left in the third.

A few minutes later, Greene made his interception and Wimberley was able to score on a 1-yard plunge to keep the Red Devils’ hopes alive at 56-34 with 6:20 left in the game.

Liberty Bell dashed those hopes, however, as the Mountain Lions chewed up some clock on their next drive, scoring the final touchdown of the game with 2:53 left to make it 64-34.

Greene finished with 117 yards passing but was sacked five times for 16 negative yards. Despite his injury, Wimberley ran the ball 25 times for 126 yards and a touchdown. Swan finished with 59 yards on 13 carries.

The 1B state championship game between Liberty Bell and Wilbur-Creston-Keller will be played Friday at Husky Stadium. Wilbur-Creston-Keller beat Mossyrock 66-22 in the other semifinal.

Neah Bay graduates just four players — Cayden Smith, Azriel Swan-Jimmicum, Josh Angeles and Hayden Dalos.

“We will be working in the offseason to take that next step,” coach Greene said. “It’s exciting.”

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