PUYALLUP, Wash. - Back in July, when few cared about Class 4A state championship-game forecasts, Kennedy Catholic coach Sheldon Cross was a believer.
After a loss, mind you.
The Lancers had just lost to Lake Stevens in the finals of the Lakewood Cougars Championship 7-v-7 Passing Tournament, but after what he saw - Cross had a hunch.
So much, he casually mentioned to the Class 4A favorites that there might be a rematch Dec. 3 in the WiAA championship game.
Kennedy Catholic certainly held up its end.
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Behind 331 passing yards and five touchdowns from sophomore Devon Forehand, the fourth-seeded Lancers took down No. 8 seed Emerald Ridge, 42-28, at Sparks Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Forehand was nearly perfect, especially on do-or-die third- and fourth-down play calls, completing 23 of his 28 passes - with no turnovers.
"Just come out and be an assassin, and play the game as fast as you can," Forehand said. "Be a killer."
The win clinched the Lancers just their second WIAA title game berth, with the other one coming in 2006 when they lost to Bellevue, 21-14, in the Class 3A finals.
And look who Kennedy Catholic will meet up with again Saturday night at Mount Tahoma Stadium? It is Lake Stevens, the reigning state runner-up.
"I know no one else believes it, but we had a big-time vision, and we said we are going to set out and do things better than they've ever been done," Cross said. "We are on a mission ... one championship opportunity at a time."
Yes, after a disappointing finish to the 2021 season - a last-second district playoff loss to North Creek - they decided to do things differently this fall. They installed the Wing-T offense to go along with their primary Air Raid attack.
On Saturday, it was the Air Raid that carried the Lancers to victory.
It started on the first drive as Forehand completed a 36-yard pass to Maclane Watkins on fourth and 23 to set up Xe'ree Alexander's 1-yard touchdown plunge.
Emerald Ridge scored twice in the span of 31/2 minutes, capped by Tayshaun Micks' 3-yard scoring run, to grab a 15-8 lead at the 8:58 mark of the first half.
But a minute later, Forehand and the offense started its own half-closing 22-0 run on his 41-yard scoring connection with Mason Hayes.
In the final two minutes, Forehand closed with two more touchdown passes - a 6-yarder to Watkins and a 19-yarder to Hayes as the Lancers took a 30-15 halftime lead.
Three of Kennedy Catholic's touchdowns came on fourth down, and a fourth was on third down.
"They are a good team and found some holes there (in our defense)," Emerald Ridge coach Adam Schakel said. "It is a big game - and big plays are what end up happening to win a game usually."
The Jaguars trimmed it to 36-28 on Jake Schakel's 73-yard touchdown to Kajon Babcock down the right sideline with 10:08 remaining, but the Lancers answered right back on Forehand's high-arcing 32-yard score to Watkins on fourth down.
Hayes (eight catches, 153 yards, two touchdowns) and Watkins (five catches, 97 yards, two TDs) could not be stopped.
"We (Hayes and myself) are just clutch players," Watkins said. "We want it. We want the smoke. Every big play we can get, we are here to get it."
And now, Kennedy Catholic has reached a final juncture - with big hopes of closing the deal.
"We said we learned from the past, and learned what it will take to win late in November and December," Cross said.
Kennedy Catholic 8 22 0 12 - 42
Emerald Ridge 7 8 6 7 - 28
KC – Xe'ree Alexander 1-run (run good).
ER – Logan Lisherness 1-run (Brady Peterson kick).
ER – Tayshaun Micks 3-run (Jake Schakel run).
KC – Mason Hayes 41-pass from Devon Forehand (run failed).
KC – Maclane Watkins 6-pass from Forehand (run good).
KC – Hayes 19-pass from Forehand (run good).
ER – Tony Harste 9-pass from Schakel (kick failed).
KC – Isaac Syph 22-pass from Forehand (pass failed).
ER – Kajon Babcock 73-pass from Schakel (Peterson kick).
KC – Watkins 32-pass from Forehand (run failed).
Passing: Kennedy Catholic– Devon Forehand 23-28-331; Emerald Ridge – Jake Schakel 26-36-397.
Rushing: Kennedy Catholic – Xe'ree Alexander 18-47. Emerald Ridge - Tayshaun Micks 10-35, Logan Lisherness 8-18.
Receiving: Kennedy Catholic – Mason Hayes 8-153, Maclane Watkins 5-97, Isaac Syph 8-58. Emerald Ridge – Tony Harste 8-117, Jacob Lane 6-103, Kajon Babcock 2-82.