Zach Borisch had a hand in all four of Kamiakin’s touchdowns as the Braves slayed a giant Saturday at Pop Keeney Stadium, beating Eastside Catholic 30-27 in the Class 3A semifinals.
Kamiakin’s senior quarterback ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone and threw for a pair of second-half scores, and running back Jethro Questad accounted for 223 yards from scrimmage, helping send the Braves to the Class 3A state championship game for the first time since they finished as runners-up to Bellevue in 2010.
Kamiakin (11-2) next faces top-ranked O’Dea (13-0), a 35-9 winner over Meadowdale, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Tacoma Dome. Eastside Catholic (11-2) was denied its fifth consecutive championship appearance and a shot at three consecutive state titles.
“Right now we’re gonna relish in this victory, but we know what our job is,” Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin said. “Our job is not to win the semifinals; our job is to win a state championship.”
It’s a job still available thanks to Kamiakin’s perseverance after surrendering a seven-point halftime lead.
Eastside Catholic scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and a field goal to open the second half for a 27-17 lead. But Benson Smith gave the Braves their first spark of the third quarter when he returned a kickoff to the Crusaders’ 32-yard line — with the help of a horse collar penalty — to put Kamiakin in great field position.
“My guys blocked it well — they blocked so good today,” Smith said. “That’s what sprung me free was their blocking. All I had to do was run down the sideline.”
A couple plays later, Borisch slightly underthrew Smith at the goal line, and Eastside Catholic defensive back Jonathan Kvech tipped the ball straight up in the air. Smith maintained focus and ran back to the ball to catch it at the 1-yard line before walking in for a touchdown to cut the Crusaders’ lead to three.
“He tips it up in the air, and our motto as receivers is if the ball’s up in the air, go get it,” Smith said. “That’s what was going through my mind at that point, and it was great I was able to catch that ball.”
Smith’s impressive touchdown grab was equaled by Isaiah Brimmer’s catch on Kamiakin’s following drive, as he was being pushed out of bounds — pass interference was called on the play — while Borisch’s pass was in the air. Brimmer still hauled it in while tapping a toe in the end zone for the 14-yard score.
Brimmer made what was essentially the game-sealing play when he intercepted Eastside Catholic quarterback Ze’Shaun Lewis with a little more than a minute left.
Playing against one of the top defenses he’d come up against this season, Borisch said his faith in the team’s receivers carried the Braves.
“When the game’s on the line, I can go to every single one of them. There’s not one single one where I’m like, ‘That’s my go-to guy,’ because they’re all great,” Borisch said. “Isaiah had a great catch, and we love to go to him. Game is on the line, and Isaiah is a guy that’s like, ‘Get me the ball.’ Then Benson with that coordination, that little play back there, he kept his eye on it and made a play. He’s a playmaker.”
Highlighting a day of crazy plays for both teams, Questad had three plays of 20 yards or longer, including a 36-yard reception that set up Brimmer’s touchdown reception. Biglin said that play in particular stood out to him as a reason why the Braves were able to punch their ticket to Tacoma.
“There were so many great plays, but the one that’s most special is what shows me these guys are learning the game of football,” Biglin said. “Jethro comes over to me, and he’s the one that called that play down the sideline, when we rolled to the right. He said ‘They’re not covering me, coach.’ And you’ve gotta trust those guys. They’ve been with you for four years, so you trust him and he makes a big play for us.”
After the Crusaders took a 10-0 first-quarter lead on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Chris Lefau and a 27-yard field goal by Scott Lees, the Braves started to go to work.
Facing what could have been their second consecutive three-and-out, Borisch hit Brimmer on a 9-yard pitch-and-catch to convert third-and-8, and that maintained Kamiakin’s first scoring drive. Fueled by some big runs by Borisch and Questad, the Braves went 75 yards in less than 2 minutes, and Borisch scored on a 6-yard run to put Kamiakin on the board.
After trading punts, the Braves again used big plays — a 20-yard reception for Smith with a facemask penalty added on, and runs of 29 yards for Borisch and 22 yards for Questad — to drive the ball 96 yards, capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Borisch to help give Kamiakin a 17-10 halftime lead.
Lefau was the top offensive weapon for the Crusaders, as he racked up 206 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions and also had a 3-yard touchdown run.
Widely considered Eastside Catholic’s most talented player, 6-foot-4, 250-pound Hunter Bryant — who lines up primarily at wide receiver — had a relatively quiet day as he was being stalked by Kamiakin’s top cornerback, Darreon Moore. Bryant, headed to the University of Washington, recorded six catches for 74 yards, but failed to score.
While Biglin was pleased with his team knocking off the two-time defending state champions, he said the Braves — who lost in both of their previous state championship appearances — still have a job to do.
Borisch said he’s looking forward to his shot at etching Kamiakin into the history books.
“Kamiakin’s never taken home a state championship, and we believe we can do it,” Borisch said. “We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna work our butts off this week, the coaches are going to do a great job of preparing, and this is the team that I want to go with.”