Achilles’ Heel-anCrusaders’ passing game overwhelms Washington
Coming into Thursday night’s championship bout between Bishop Heelan and Washington it was clear who would pass and who would run.
The Crusaders’ aerial attack was just as good as advertised, as their total offense outgained Washington’s by 200 yards with 453 coming through the air.
Heelan quarterback Trenton Solsma broke the state championship game passing record by 141 yards.
The Demons hung with Heelan for one half before losing 47-14.
Heelan was pinned inside its 1 on its first drive, but Solsma threw two passes to senior Connor Niles for first downs. On third-and-6 he went deep to Niles — who beat Washington senior Carl Sivels — but the pass was long.
Heelan scored 10 seconds into its next drive on the first play, an 80-yard connection as Solsma found Niles in stride this time.
The Demons orchestrated their best drive of the night, it spanned three minutes, eight plays and 66 yards. Senior Alex Coker had two carries for 6 yards, junior Daryn Sebelius had a 4-yard attempt, senior Tanner Knupp had a carry. This set up Sivels for his second carry of the drive on fourth-and-1. He burst through the hole for a 36-yard touchdown giving the Demons their only lead of the night at 7-6.
Heelan started from their own 22. The Crusaders drove 72 yards before a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior Philip Jacobson with 33 seconds left in the first quarter. The drive took just five plays and 1:11 for a 13-7 lead.
From there Washington was unable to consistently move the ball. Meanwhile, Heelan looked dangerous every play.
Heelan senior Tyler Cropley made a 17-yard reception to the 25. On third-and-3 Knupp made a pick to appear to shift momentum, but it was waved off for holding.
A Jacobson 9-yard touchdown carry put his team ahead 20-7 with 8:35 left in the half.
Coker had a response with a 68-yard kick return. Four plays later Sivels converted another fourth down with a 3-yard rush. Senior Mason Quigley then missed a 33-yard field goal that would have cut into the lead.
“We don’t even get the field goal,” head coach Randy Schrader said. “They were a good explosive football team. We couldn’t match up athlete (to athlete) with them.”
The Crusaders capitalized on Washington’s failure to put points on the board with another touchdown reception from Jacobson from 29 yards out with 42 seconds left in the half.
From 10:40 to 10:30 in the third quarter, Jacobson scored his fourth and fifth touchdown of the game from 44 and 22 yards out. The fifth score came after an onside kick. Heelan killed off the game with a 56-yard touchdown reception from Brett Buchmann for the team’s third score in less than four minutes to open the closing half.
“We couldn’t tackle in space,” Schrader said. “They have some athletes on the edges that made some catches. We didn’t make some tackles. It got away from us.”
In the fourth quarter Sebelius had a consolation 15-yard touchdown scamper.
Heelan wins its fourth state school title and first since 2008 after finishing in second last year like Washington this year.
“There was a lot of pressure on them, knowing that anything less than this was going to be a disappointment,” said Heelan head coach Roger Jansen. “We waited 365 days to get another opportunity.”
This Washington squad broke the school record with 12 wins. The Demons advanced to their first-ever state championship game. No. 6 Washington will graduate 16 seniors.
“It’s going to be a tough one to swallow,” Coker said. “But it was a great run. We did something that our school has never done.”
The Washington community traveled in numbers to the Dome for a second time to see their hometown team — support that Coker has felt during the tourney run.
“People I don’t know come up and say, ‘good luck at the game,’” Coker said. “‘I have never met you before, but thank you.’ It’s great for the town.”
Carl Sivels was rushed to the hospital for an internal injury during the second half and Coker had a separated shoulder, picked up before the half.
“It has always been like that,” Coker said. “Carl gets sick, I get sick. Carl pulls his left hamstring, I pull my left hamstring. It has been like that forever. Unfortunately it happened.”
Coker became the team’s No. 1 fan after the injury, but that was little consolation for the senior running back.
“That is how I ended my senior year, watching a loss,” Coker said. “I wish I could have been in there. It is sad.”
Washington will look to make the state tournament for the third time in school history and first time in back-to-back seasons next year.
“Expectations are going to be extremely high,” Sebelius said. “Sophomores and juniors are going to have to step up too. Everyone is going to be looking at us to get back here.”
Schrader has changed the mindset in Washington, taking a losing program and turning them into a state runner-up.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Schrader said. “We came a long way from 3-6 in my first year. You get a taste of (winning), you want to keep it in your mouth.”