The Kennewick Lions made some key plays on offense late and benefited from a special teams miscue to hold off Yelm 35-34 in overtime Saturday in a first-round 3A state playoff game at Lampson Stadium.
The Lions (10-1) move on to the quarterfinals to play the winner of Garfield/Bethel next weekend.
“If you like high school football games this was a good one to watch,” said Kennewick coach Randy Affholter. “I’m happy for our kids and this is great for the community.”
Kennewick, which earned the No. 1 seed for 3A in the Mid-Columbia Conference, is moving on thanks to a missed Yelm extra point kick in overtime.
The Lions opened the overtime session with a touchdown.
Elijah Tanner turned a broken play into a 12-yard TD pass to Simeon Howard on third down. Ethan Woolery connected on the extra point.
The scoring play was set up by a key fourth-down conversion earlier in the drive.
“We were going to go for it,” Affholter said about the fourth-down play rather than kick the field goal. “We like to be a little closer to try those.”
Then on the scoring play, Tanner rolled out right, looking for a receiver in the flat.
However, Yelm had the play bottled up. After eluding a tackler, Tanner threw the ball across the field to a leaping Howard to give the Lions the lead.
The play capped a huge game by Howard.
The sophomore finished with seven catches for 142 yards and a touchdown.
He also had an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown that gave the Lions a quick 7-0 lead.
On Yelm’s (7-4) ensuing overtime possession, Carson Amendt rushed in from 3 yards out to get Yelm to 35-34. But the extra point went wide left, causing a huge roar from the Lion faithful.
“What really impressed me was the way we played on both sides of the ball,” Affholter said. “We continued to make adjustments and make plays.”
Yelm, which trailed the entire game, needed to come up with some magic late in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
On fourth-down and 10, Tornados quarterback Benjamin Hoffmann connected with Austin Schaler for a 15-yard touchdown with 14.9 seconds left in the contest.
The Lions, who beat Shadle Park last week to reach the state playoffs, dominated the game early and took a quick 14-0 lead.
Kennewick forced three first-quarter turnovers, the biggest by Howard.
On the second play of the game, Hoffmann lost the ball trying to get a few extra yards, and Howard scooped the ball up and went 26 yards for the score.
Yelm settled down in the second quarter after the disastrous start, coming back with two straight touchdowns to tie the game at 14 at halftime.
“You saw us in the first quarter,” Affholter said. “We just needed to pace ourselves because I think we got a little tired in the second quarter.”