KENNEWICK — As Kennedy players rushed to their fans to celebrate their 28-13 Class 3A state-semifinal victory over Kamiakin on Saturday at Lampson Stadium, senior Marc-Avery Airhart led the way.
And why not? He'd led the defensive effort that paved the way for the Lancers (13-0) to get to the finals for the first time in school history after five times losing in the semifinals.
"This is a great feeling," said Airhart, who had 11 tackles, including three for loss, and forced a fumble that led to Nolan Washington's 21-yard touchdown return with 10:38 to play. "We did what we came to do, and that's move on."
Kennedy plays Bellevue, a 47-0 winner over Auburn, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
The championship game is something Kennedy players have been hoping for since practice opened last summer.
"We've been wanting them since Aug. 16. We finally get our wish," said senior Nate Williams, who had 140 yards and two TDs on 24 carries and nine tackles at safety.
The Lancers shut down Kamiakin's running attack, holding 1,000-yard rusher Mitch Larson to 78 yards on 23 carries, and took advantage of both Braves turnovers in the fourth quarter for scores.
"They're just definitely a better ballclub than us, no doubt about it," said Kamiakin coach Craig Beverlin, whose team had an 11-game winning streak snapped and finished 11-2.
Kennedy got on the board first late in the first half when Bobby Gentry capped an 11-play, 54-yard drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Washington.
Washington's fumble return gave the Lancers a 14-0 lead. Kamiakin answered with its first real drive of the game, having to go to the air to produce it. Carson Meyer completed four straight passes, the last a 5-yarder to Jacob Potter with 7:38 to play.
Williams then delivered the knockout punches. First, he burst through a gap between center and right guard on a third-and-one play, outracing three defenders to the end zone for a 47-yard TD with 5:52 left.
Then, after a Gentry interception, Williams capped a short drive with a 6-yard run, giving the Lancers a 28-7 lead with 4:21 left.
"We never felt comfortable, but we definitely felt confident," Williams said.
"We know these teams at this time of year can put up points just like that."
But the way Kennedy's defense was playing, that was unlikely. Airhart and fellow linebacker Everette Thompson (six tackles) were blitzing on every play, disdaining the pass. The Lancers sacked Meyer twice and had eight tackles for loss.
"The coaches gave me the green light to just hit it whenever I wanted," Airhart said. "They caught us on a couple passes, but that's OK. They just told me to just hit the gaps and get as much pressure as I could. We just got more physical with them."
Fullback Jesse Roe added 90 yards on 10 carries for Kennedy. Gentry finished 4-of-10 passing for 30 yards, with one interception. He also had eight tackles from his safety position.
|Kennedy 28, Kamiakin 13|
Kenn — Nolan Washington 7 pass from Bobby Gentry (Jacob Prato kick)
Kenn — Nolan Washington 21 fumble return (Jacob Prato kick)
Kam — Jacob Potter 5 pass from Carson Meyer (Shane Price kick)
Kenn — Nate Williams 47 run (Jacob Prato kick)
Kenn — Nate Williams 6 run (Jacob Prato kick)
Kam — Dane Knapp 17 run (pass failed)