KENNEWICK, Wash. - In battle between Gonzaga Prep’s rushing attack against Kamiakin’s air show, it was the visiting Bullpups’ Lilomaiava Mikaele and teammates who came out top.
Mikaele rushed 30 times for 190 yards and three touchdowns as No. 10 seed Gonzaga Prep beat No. 7 Kamiakin, 40-27, at Lampson Stadium on Saturday,
The victory sets up a Gonzaga Prep (9-2 overall) in a rematch in the quarterfinals against No. 2 Lake Stevens next weekend.
Last season, Lake Steven beat the Bullpups, 35-14, in the 4A quarterfinals.
"This is so wonderful," said Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna. "It feels so good. They have such a good football team. But for us, it’s all about the guys up front."
In all, Gonzaga Prep rushed the football 65 times for 296 yards.
That helped keep the ball out of the highly potent Kamiakin offensive unit’s hands.
"Their offense is tough to defend, although we did do it early," said Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin. "It just wears you down."
Offensively, the Braves were still able to move the ball through the air.
Kamiakin quarterback Carter Poland finished the game completing 27 of 48 passes for 374 yards.
Receivers Gavyn Buchanan (eight receptions for 129 yards) and David Kuku (nine receptions for 124 yards) had monster games for Kamiakin.
The Bullpups were able to keep the Braves' offense when they needed to.
“Give credit to H.T. Higgins,” said McKenna. “He’s our defensive coordinator. When we do what we’re coached to do, we do well.”
Mikaele was equally impressed.
“It feels amazing to watch my defense step up,” said Mikaele. “They just get better each week.”
Gonzaga Prep trailed 12-0 early in the game.
However, the Bullpups rallied and took a 13-12 lead into halftime. And early in the third quarter, Prep’s William Alexander-Durr picked off Poland and returned in 38 yards for a touchdown and a 20-12 lead.
The Braves responded near the end of the third quarter when Devin Crow scored on a 4-yard run, and then added a two-point run conversion. Suddenly, it was knotted up at 20-20.
But Gonzaga Prep, using its running game, continued to wear down the Kamiakin defense.
The Bullpups scored two unanswered touchdowns on touchdown runs by Noah Holman (1 yard) and Mikaele (3 yards) to give them enough breathing room.
Kamiakin tried to respond, as Poland moved the team 99 yards in an efficient 2-minute drill, completing the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Tahir with 2:38 to play — and cutting Gonzaga Prep’s lead to 34-27.
But it was Mikaele who once again gave the Bullpups breathing room, pounding the football on the ground until he found the end zone on a 14-yard touchdon run to clinch the victory with a minute left in the contest.
For Kamiakin, it ends a season with a young team that finished with an 8-3 record.
“If you watched us last summer in team camp, if you told us we’d be playing in the first round of the state playoffs, we wouldn’t have believed it,” Biglin said.