CEDAR FALLS – In almost every championship run, you’ve got to get lucky somewhere along the line. You’ve got to catch that break that helps you win a ballgame.
Washington’s lucky break came in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
A fake punt, a forward fumble, what appeared to be a missed official’s call on that forward fumble and a long touchdown pass moved the Demons past Solon, 14-9, in a Class 3A playoff semifinal at the UNI-Dome. Those things came in exactly that order.
For brevity at the moment, Tanner Knupp turned a short reception into a 50-yard TD that moves Washington (12-1) into next week’s championship game against top-ranked Sioux City Heelan (13-0). It’s the first finals appearance for the Demons.
“Both teams were kind of mirror images of each other,” said Washington Coach Randy Schrader. “We were fortunate to come out on top.”
Knupp caught a short pass out of the backfield from quarterback Daryn Seibelius, turned and sprinted up the sideline for the winning points with 4:51 left. It was the second big offensive play of the night from the senior, whose 52-yard touchdown run, in which he broke several tackles, helped give Washington a 7-6 halftime lead.
“I kind of snuck out between the offensive line, just kind of buried myself, got out in the flat,” Knupp said. “Turned the corner, saw open space and just took off.”
The Demons were allowed the chance for Knupp’s heroics thanks to a completely bizarre play. On 4th-and-18 from their own 30, punter Mason Quigley decided on his own to take off to the right side and run, getting about 15 yards to the 45 but stopped shy of first down.
But he fumbled the football forward, with the ever-present Knupp falling on it barely inbounds at the sideline six yards up field to the Solon 49. First down Washington.
“I don’t even know. It was just heat of the moment,” Quigley said. “I was sitting there and saw guys coming from the outside on the left side and nobody on the right side. I thought ‘Well, I better try it.’ So I did and got lucky.”
In more ways than one. Repeated replays on the UNI-Dome video board showed Quigley’s knee actually was on the ground before his fumble.
One of the replays was frozen just as his knee touched down, much to the assumed dismay of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Certainly to the dismay of Solon coaches and fans, who howled in protest.
“What do you say?” said Solon Coach Kevin Miller. “What do you say to your kids in that circumstance? I’m a big believer in being responsible for your actions. It shouldn’t have come to that point. That’s the thing we talked to our football team about. That’s character. We have to take responsibility for the things we didn’t do the other 100 plays or whatever it was.”
Washington admitted its good fortune, but wasn’t about to apologize for it.
“Whether it was on the Jumbotron or not, the refs called it a fumble,” Knupp said.
“They called a fumble, we recovered,” Schrader said. “It’s flip the coin and get the call. That’s truly what it was. Just flip the coin and get the call.”
Solon (11-2) also had to lament the missed opportunities it had offensively. Three times the Spartans drove inside the Washington 10 but couldn’t put the ball in the end zone, settling for short field goals of 29, 28 and 26 yards, respectively, from Jackson Rushek.
The latter kick came with 5:13 left in the third quarter and gave the Spartans a 9-7 lead. It was a huge disappointment considering a blocked punt gave Solon the ball at the Demons 7.
“We had opportunities, and we didn’t seize those opportunities,” Miller said.
“Their offense should have scored more than nine points,” Knupp said. “Our defense was outstanding in the red zone … We gave them three field goals instead of three touchdowns, and that’s a huge momentum shift. Coming off that sideline giving up three points instead of seven is just a huge lift.”
Solon fumbled the football away on the possession immediately following Knupp’s second touchdown. It got the ball back at its own 16 with 28 seconds left, got to midfield thanks to a dubious pass-interference penalty on Washington, but a Hail Mary on the final play wasn’t answered.
Quarterback Jacob Black had such an outstanding season for Solon, but was limited to just 24 yards rushing and 60 passing. Alex Coker, Washington’s leading rusher, was held to just 37 yards rushing.
Neither team’s star could get going.
“We could never get anything going on offense,” Miller said. “We could never get anything started to gain momentum.”
“Every team that wins a championship faces adversity,” Knupp said. “And every team gets a break.”
Here are the game statistics:
Washington 14, Solon 9
AT AT UNI-DOME
|Rushes-yards||47 - 221||40 - 133|
|Comp-Att-Int||5 - 12 - 2||6 - 15 - 1|
|Fumbles-lost||1 - 0||2 - 1|
|Punts-average||5 - 31.4||5 - 37.6|
|Penalties-yards||9 - 70||6 - 40|
Rushing: Washington – Tanner Knupp 11-112 , Alex Coker 18-37 , Carl Sivels 6-26 , Daryn Seibelius 10-25 , Mason Quigley 1-15 , Team 1-6 Solon – Brandon Kramer 14-75 , Jordan Wymer 5-26 , Jacob Black 18-24 , Connor Ham 3-8
Passing: Washington – Daryn Seibelius 5-12-2-101 Solon – Jacob Black 6-15-1-60
Receiving: Washington – Tanner Knupp 2-75 , Thomas Bump 1-13 , Carl Sivels 1-9 , Alex Coker 1-4 Solon – Connor Ham 4-30 , Nathan Hawkins 1-27 , Brandon Kramer 1-3
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sol-Jackson Rushek 29 FG
Wash-Tanner Knupp 52 run (Mason Quigley kick)
Sol-Rushek 28 FG
Sol-Rushek 26 FG
Wash-Knupp 50 pass from Daryn Seibelius (Quigley kick)