WALLA WALLA - On a night when visiting Reardan gained 326 yards rushing, the DeSales Irish defense came up with the big play to keep its season alive.
The Irish stuffed Indians' running back Johnny Kieffer on a 2-point conversion try that preserved a 35-34 overtime victory Friday night at Ty Baffney Field.
"It was exciting," DeSales running back and linebacker Luke Fazzari said. "It was the most exciting game I've ever been in."
Quarterback Jeremiah Cox paced the Irish offense by completing 18-of-27 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns.
DeSales, now 7-2, moves on in the postseason and travels to White Swan, 61-27 winners over Manson on Friday. The day and time of next weekend's Class 2B-11 playoff game have yet to be determined.
Following an exchange of punts, Reardan drove 55 yards in nine plays for Friday's first score. Kieffer, who ran 30 times for 180 yards, scampered in from 14 yards out with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter. A Seth Hansen PAT kick put the Indians in front 7-0.
DeSales evened the score less than two-and-a-half minutes later when quarterback Jeremiah Cox hooked up with wide receiver Ryan Baumgart for a 25-yard touchdown toss with 27 seconds on the clock. A conversion boot from Arturo Martinez knotted the score at 7-7.
Kieffer crossed the goal line on second-quarter advances of 1 and 48 yards to give Reardan a 19-7 lead with 2:58 remaining.
Running back Nick Wales brought the Irish within six, 19-13, on a 7-yard running touchdown at the 2:06 mark of period two.
Reardan moved to the DeSales 14-yard line on its next possession before giving up the ball on downs in the final minute of the quarter.
But the Indians would get another chance to re-establish a two-touchdown margin after a Kieffer interception and return to the DeSales 10.
"We thought we had something and we took a shot," DeSales coach Pat Graham said. "Sometimes you get a little over-aggressive. It was not a wise call on my part."
Two plays later, Hansen hit Roy Walser with a 5-yard scoring toss on the final snap of the half and Reardan went into intermission with momentum and a 25-13 lead.
The Indians amassed 256 yards rushing on 36 carries in half one and ran 39 offensive plays compared with just 17 for the Irish.
"Their runners ran hard," Graham said. "We had opportunities to tackle them for no gain, and they'd gain five yards."
"We didn't do a very good job of finishing," Fazzari said. "We were a little disappointed with their touchdown before halftime."
DeSales came out of the locker room and moved 58 yards in five plays on the initial series of the second half. Cox found Baumgart for a 6-yard scoring strike that, coupled with a Martinez extra point, cut Reardan's lead to five, 25-20, with 9:48 remaining in the third quarter.
A stalemate ensued over the next quarter-and-a-half in which the teams combined for five punts.
Reardan muscled down the clock on its next-to-last possession of regulation, negotiating 39 yards in eight plays. On the ninth snap of the series, Niko Knezovich kicked a 25-yard field goal to put the Indians up by eight, 28-20, with 2:09 to go.
The Irish commenced their final drive of period four on their own 23 with 2:02 remaining. Cox started the series with a 9-yard aerial to Baumgart.
After an incompletion, Wales rushed for 10 yards to the Irish 42 and Cox connected with Baumgart for 11 yards and Darryl Galloway for four to the Reardan 43.
An incomplete pass, Cox kept the chains moving with a 7-yard scramble to the Indians' 36.
Cox found Galloway on the next two plays for passing gains of 9 and 11 yards that brought the ball to the Reardan 16.
On the following snap, Cox and Galloway combined for a 16-yard touchdown with just 14 seconds left.
Cox spotted Fazzari in the end zone for the 2-point conversion moments later to even the score at 28-28.
"We never panicked," Graham said. "We kept our composure. Jeremiah has done a great job all year on the 2-minute drill."
"I was impressed by the way our guys reacted after the field goal, especially with Jeremiah hitting his targets," Fazzari said. "He definitely kept his cool."
DeSales defensive back Joe Duehn generated excitement on the last play of regulation with an interception at his own 30. He angled toward the right sideline and took significant advantage of open space before being tackled at the Reardan 13.
The Indians won the toss for the Kansas tie-breaker and elected to go on defense.
Cox and Fazzari hooked up for a 24-yard screen pass on the second play of the extra period to give the Irish first-and-goal at the 1.
Three plays later, Cox threw a 3-yard touchdown to Duehn. Martinez added the all-important PAT to put DeSales up 35-28.
Reardan responded in their half of the bonus panel with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Hansen to Walser on a third-and-7 play.
But the Indians' quest for triumph ended when Kieffer, running left, was snowed under by multiple green jerseys on the 2-point try.
"The kids stepped up and made plays when we needed them," Graham said.
"If we were in that situation, we would have gone for it, too," Wales said.
DeSales allowed just 70 yards on 20 rushing attempts after halftime.
"We tackled better," Graham said. "We had better pad level. Our linebackers were more active. We got more guys to the ball. Our guys wrapped up."
"We kept our fundamentals under control," Wales said. "We needed to stay low and wrap up.
"The way the guys were carrying themselves out of the locker room (told) me we were going to have a better second half," Wales said. "We knew we could do this. I'm proud of our guys. This was a great win for us."
DeSales 35, Reardan 34
Reardan 7 18 0 3 6 - 34
DeSales 7 6 7 8 7 - 35
Reardan - Kieffer 14 run (Hansen kick).
DeSales - Baumgart 25 pass from Cox (Martinez kick).
Reardan - Kieffer 1 run (kick blocked).
Reardan - Kieffer 48 run (pass failed).
DeSales - Wales 7 run (kick failed).
Reardan - Walser 5 pass from Hansen (kick failed).
DeSales - Baumgart 6 pass from Cox (Martinez kick).
Reardan - Knezovich 25 FG.
DeSales - Galloway 16 pass from Cox (Fazzari pass from Cox).
DeSales - Duehn 3 pass from Cox (Martinez kick).
Reardan - Walser 22 pass from Hansen (run failed).
First downs 17 18
Rushes/yards 56-326 21-107
Passing yards 37 222
Passes (att-comp-int) 10-3-1 27-18-1
Punts 3-45 5-29
Fumbles-lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-54 4-33
RUSHING - Rear: Kieffer 30-180, Eldred 12-78, Knezovich 11-61, Hansen 3-7; DeS: Fazzari 9-67, Wales 5-31, Cox 7-9.
PASSING - Rear: Hansen 3-10-1, 37 yards, 2 TDs; DeS: Cox 18-27-1, 222 yards, 4 TDs.
RECEIVING - Rear: Walser 2-27-2, Knezovich 1-10; DeS: Galloway 7-67-1, Baumgart 4-51-2, Duehn 3-37-1, Fazzari 2-45, Wales 2-22.