YAKIMA – How long is 68 seconds?
It was two seconds longer than DeSales needed to drive 67 yards and get a 29-yard, game-winning field goal off the leg of Victor Mata.
Mata’s boot split the uprights with two seconds showing on the clock. The kick climaxed an Irish drive that overcame La Salle’s 27-26 lead and produced a 29-27 DeSales victory in state Class 2B quarterfinal football playoff action here Saturday afternoon.
"We practice the two-minute drill all year," Irish coach Pat Graham said of the last drive. "Our team never panicked. We had great composure. Pat (Richard, Irish quarterback) was able to move us down the field. That’s a testimony to his leadership that we were able to move down the field and give Victor a chance."
It was the tale of two halves until the last 5:47.
The Lightning stopped the first Irish drive of the game when Steve Gasseling recovered an Irish bad snap at his own 13.
Then La Salle scored 16 unanswered points.
Following the fumble recovery, La Salle drove 87 yards with Nick Woodard scoring from five yards out to cap the drive. Matt Kuribayashi busted a 10-yard run up the middle to climax an 82-yard Lightning strike, Mike McGree ran in the second successful La Salle 2-point conversion and La Salle led 16-0 with 3:55 left in the half.
The Irish answered with help from a pass interference call as Nick Wales, who ran for 62 yards on the night, powered in from the 5 with 1:34 left.
Wales recovered a fumble on the Irish 49 on the ensuing Lightning possession, and La Salle went to intermission up 16-6.
"In the first half, we made a lot of mistakes," Graham said. "We had a couple of costly penalties and that turnover down there. We felt like we could throw the ball on them. We came out in the second half and had the wind at our back. We were able to make some big throws."
The Irish took control of the second half. With the wind at their back and with consecutive Ryan Rea catches — the first for seven yards and the second for 13 — DeSales marched 56 yards to a second-and-5 at the Lightning 18. Rea later injured a knee after catching three passes for 26 yards, and had to leave the game.
Richard found Gregg in the left corner of the end zone and Gregg got a foot down for the touchdown, and Mata added the point-after to cut the lead to 16-13 with 8:08 left in the third quarter.
The Irish defense held, and the offense went to work from its own 33. Kyle Lindgren scooted 36 yards on a screen pass to highlight a DeSales drive to the La Salle 29. Richard-to-Gregg struck again and DeSales took its first lead at 20-16 with 3:20 left in the third.
"Tommy Gregg did a great job," Graham said. "He ran some great routes all night and made three clutch catches for us."
The Richard-to-Gregg act had one more scene.
The Irish opened the fourth period with a third-and-goal from the La Salle 5 and tried a reverse. The Lightning forced a fumble and Mike Stiekema recovered for La Salle on the Irish 13.
La Salle returned the favor on its first snap as the Irish defense forced Sutton to cough it up, and Mata recovered at the 12.
Richard ran for two, and Richard-to-Gregg struck again from 10 yards out, but Mata missed the PAT, and it was 26-16 Irish with 10:58 to play.
"Pat (Richard) really put some good balls out there," Gregg said of his three TD catches. "It was mainly Pat that gave me the good throws."
On the ensuing Lightning possession, Gregg picked off a McGree pass at the Irish 43.
Game over, seemingly. The undefeated Lightning trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time all year and the Irish had all the momentum.
"I kinda thought (it was the game)," Gregg said of his pick. "But they battled back."
"We scored three touchdowns to get back in this, and we thought Tom’s interception was the game," Irish defensive safety Ryan Baumgart added. "Then they went down and scored."
La Salle needed a break and made its own.
Kuribayashi busted through and blocked a Mata punt attempt. Dylan Sattler picked it up and raced 30 yards, McGree ran in the PAT, and the Lightning recaptured the momentum down 26-24 with 5:47 left.
"The guys from the outside (were coming) and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to kick it and get it out of my hands as soon as possible," Mata said. "The (blocker) came from the left side and the guy that picked it up for the touchdown was from the right side."
DeSales went three-and-out and, following a 21-yard Irish punt into the wind, La Salle went to work at the Irish 38.
The Irish defense stalled the drive at its 13. Out trotted the Lightning’s regular place kicker, Mitchell Kennedy, who was injured in pre-game warm ups and had not made an appearance until his 30-yard field-goal attempt.
"I was surprised they went for the field goal," Graham said. "They had not even attempted a point-after. He made a great kick."
Kennedy split the uprights and La Salle led 27-26 with 1:13 to play.
Following the kickoff, the Irish took over at their own 21 with 68 seconds left.
"We knew we could still do it," wide receiver Baumgart said. "We knew we had time."
Richard converted a third-and-4 for a first down at the Irish 31 with 44 seconds left.
Behind the offensive line protection, Richard hit four consecutive passes to Baumgart.
"We were saying ‘protect Pat’," Mata said of his offensive line mates. "Pat is an amazing quarterback and our receivers are magnets. We had to give him time to put the balls out."
Richard did: to Baumgart for 10; to Baumgart for 22; to Baumgart for four; to Baumgart for 21 and a first down at the Lightning 12 with no timeouts left and only eight ticks left in the game.
"I was bound to catch some balls after I dropped so many in the first half," Baumgart said. "It was just the routes and good balls and it clicked."
Eight seconds, after missing the last PAT into the wind, still into the wind, for a trip to the semifinals, and the Irish lined up a 30-yard field goal attempt.
"We have a lot of confidence in Victor," Graham said. "There aren’t many high school coaches that have a kicker like Victor. We knew we had a pretty good chance for that ball to go in."
Mata came out, got a good snap, got a good hold, and nailed it with two seconds showing on the clock.
"I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want this to be our last game’," Mata said. "I said (to myself) ‘it’s just like practice’. I kicked in the rain and wind in practice Thursday and thought if I could do it then I can do it now. As soon as I felt it, I looked up and it was going right down the middle."
The victory marches DeSales into the semifinal against the 11-0 Colfax Bulldogs. Colfax defeated DeSales back in week three and the Bulldogs defeated South Bend 37-6 Saturday to secure their spot in the round of four.
The semifinal is at Lampson Stadium in Kennewick Saturday with kickoff to be determined.
DeSales 29, La Salle 27
DeSales 0 6 14 9 — 29
La Salle 8 8 0 11 — 27
LaS — Woodard 5 run (LaFramboise pass from McGree).
LaS — Kuribayashi 10 run (McGree run).
DeS – Wales 5 run (pass failed).
DeS – Gregg 18 pass from Richard (Mata kick).
DeS – Gregg 29 pass from Richard (Mata kick).
DeS – Gregg 10 pass from Richard (kick failed).
LaS – Sattler 30 blocked punt return (McGree run).
LaS – Kennedy 30 FG.
DeS – Mata 29 FG.
First downs 18 15
Rushes/yards 38-153 33-201
Passing yards 210 101
Passes (att-comp-int) 26-16-0 21-9-1
Punts 5-23.4 3-26.0
Fumbles-lost 5-2 6-3
Penalties-yards 5-52 4-40
RUSHING — DeS: Lindgren 11-78, Richard 13-13, Wales 14-62; LaS: Cacchiotti 10-50, Woodard 8-52, McGree 9-78, Kuribayashi 4-19, Seymour 2-2.
PASSING — DeS: Richard 16-26-0 210 yards 3 TDs; LaS: McGree 9-21-1 101 yards.
RECEIVING — DeS: Lindgren 3-50, Baumgart 5-77, Rea 3-26, Gregg 4-59-3, Wales 1-(-2); LaS: Anderton 1-10, Kuribayashi 1-7, Sullivan 2-15, LaFramboise 2-37, Stiekema 1-13, Sattler 2-19.