BURIEN – Rocco Traore actually caught the ball twice.
With no time remaining on the clock, Traore jumped amid a crowd of Kennedy Catholic defenders and two other North Creek receiver teammates in search of a miracle.
And he came down with the 24-yard end-zone heave, temporarily lost it when he was hit - then controlled it again as he hit the turf.
When he came down with the touchdown grab, it gave the Jaguars a chance to win.
North Creek coach Torrey Myers never wavered. He called for a two-point conversion, and Kennedy McGill delivered the quarterback sneak for a stunning 43-42 comeback victory over host Kennedy Catholic at Highline Memorial Field on Saturday afternoon.
"I asked Kennedy on the sidelines what he thought," Myers said. "He even said, 'We’re going to go win this.'"
The victory catapults the Jaguars (6-4) to their first-ever appearance in the Class 4A state bracket. North Creek is only in its fifth year of existence as a school
The WIAA brackets will be released Sunday.
Here are three observations from the North Creek-Kennedy Catholic game:
ADVERSITY BREEDS FUTURE SUCCESS?
Kennedy Catholic (6-3) appeared to be in control of this Week 10 preliminary round playoff right up until the final two minutes.
The Lancers had extended their lead to 42-28 with 7 minutes, 28 seconds to go in the third quarter when Maclane Watkins laid out fully in the end zone to catch his second touchdown pass of the game, a 33-yarder from Devon Forehand.
Even after North Creek got back within one score, 42-35, on a 1-yard plunge from McGill with 8:11 remaining, Kennedy Catholic appeared to have the answer. The Lancers' final possession of the game ran the clock down under two minutes.
But on a fourth-and-2 play from the Jaguars' 18-yard line, Forehand’s pass was batted down by linebacker Stephen Woodard, giving North Creek its last chance.
"Devon played well enough to win today," Kennedy Catholic coach Sheldon Cross said. "We thought we could put it to bed there. We figured if we could get that one more first down, it’d be done with it. Those are just those moments. That’s playoff football. Someone’s gotta win, and we just didn’t finish."
Running back Donovan Lowe did, as well. Lowe carried the ball 28 times for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Forehand, just a ninth grader, completed 19 of 30 passes for 331 yards and three scores.
PERSERVERING TO PRODUCE MAGIC
The Jaguars are young themselves, with just 13 seniors. But they have learned the value of never quitting on a game.
On Saturday, in a game where the teams traded touchdowns like their lives depended on it, and the Lancers scored on four consecutive possessions from the 2:35 mark of the second quarter to the 7:28 mark of the third to pull away from a 14-14 tie and forge that 42-28 lead, North Creek never wavered.
Traore intercepted a Forehand pass in the end zone to give the Jaguars the ball back with 1:45 to go in the third qurarterback. North Creek then went 80 yards, capped by McGill’s second touchdown run of the game, to close the gap.
North Creek then stopped Kennedy Catholic twice, including on that final possession, before traversing 82 yards over the final 1:58 to get the victory. Even the play that Traore made was in doubt just seconds earlier.
Facing a fourth-and-10 play with 11 seconds remaining, McGill hit Luc Naldrett on a crossing pattern. Naldrett, one of those 13 seniors, raced for the sticks and the sideline. He earned the first down and stepped out of bounds at the 24 with six seconds to go.
On the first down, McGill waited in the pocket. The crowd got to the end zone, and McGill let the ball go. Traore came down with it.
"I had it in my hands," Traore said. "But it popped up. Thankfully, it came right back down to me."
The pass put the finishing touches on a huge game for the North Creek quarterback. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 169 yards and two more scores on 19 rushes.
SECOND TIME IS THE CHARM
Seven weeks earlier, North Creek faced the exact same situation. The Jaguars scored on the game’s final play, but still trailed Idaho powerhouse Coeur d’Alene by a point.
"We’re always going to go for the win," Myers said. "We’re going to err on the side of aggressiveness."
That day, North Creek failed on the conversion attempt as the receiver was stoped just short of the goal line - and lost, 43-42. On Saturday, in a game that meant more as a playoff contest than the former non-league game, the successful conversion turned the result around.
And extended the Jaguars' season.
(Featured file photo by Vince Miller)