Three years ago, a wintery storm hit Moses Lake where Royal High School was playing a Class 1A quarterfinal game, and the Knights were snowballed by Colville.
Nobody has been able to blow the Knights sideways since then.
That includes Saturday, as top-ranked Royal held off No. 2 Meridian, 33-27, in an entertaining state championship game at the Tacoma Dome.
The Knights (14-0) stretched their run of consecutive state titles to three in a row, matching the feat held by Raymond (1973-75). They also extended their winning streak to a state-best 41 games, which also ranks in the top 10 in the country.
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“We weren’t going to give (the streak) up,” Royal wide receiver Corbin Christensen said.
But it was a close call.
That is because the Trojans (13-1) have one of the best quarterbacks in the state, passing or running, in Eastern Washington University commit Simon Burkett, who often made big plays out of near disaster.
Burkett’s 10-yard touchdown run with 11 minutes, 22 seconds remaining tied the game at 27-27.
But over the final minutes, the high-pressure Royal defense started to get home. Two of the five sacks of Burkett —who threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns, and added two more scores on the ground — came in the final seven minutes.
“We started with six-man pressure a lot of times,” Knights coach Wiley Allred said. “And we finally changed to five (players), and had a spy. It saved us some 20-yard runs, because that kid is a really good quarterback.”
Royal’s game-winning series started at the Trojans’ 36 with 4:39 remaining. The Knights kept it on the ground with bruising running back Alonso Hernandez-Rangel, who had a pair of 7-yard runs before punching it into the end zone on a 7-yard plunge at the 2:32 mark. Hernandez-Rangel finished with a game-high 143 yards on 24 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
“One of the keys was we were able to finally run the ball — some,” Allred said.
Meridian blocked the PAT kick, and gave the football back to Burkett and the offense, trailing, 33-27.
But on second down, as Burkett darted up the middle escaping pressure, he was hit by linebacker Carlos Quintero. The ball squirted free, and was recovered by linebacker Jack Diaz for the last of the Meridian standout’s three turnovers.
The Trojans did get the ball back with 38 seconds remaining. Burkett completed a 38-yard pass to a diving Logan Dawson to get the offense near midfield in the final seconds. But his final pass along the right sideline was well-defended by Christensen, and fell incomplete.
“I think we played our tails off,” said Meridian coach Bob Ames, whose 320 career wins in 44 seasons trails former Tumwater coach Sid Otton (394) and O’Dea’s Monte Kohler (324) for most wins in state history. “I don’t know if they’ve been stressed like that all season. We’ll (consider) ourselves as being the best in the west (side).”
Which, with this eight-time 1A championship program in the picture, isn’t too shabby.
“It was fun. We haven’t had a game like that … the past couple of years,” Christensen said. “They surprised us with a lot of stuff. This was just the best game of the season, obviously.”
Royal 33, Meridian 27
Meridian..... 0--13--8 -- 6 – 27
Royal............7--14--6--6 – 33
R -- Corbin Christensen 10 pass from Sawyer Jenks (Osvaldo Guerrer kick).
M -- Bryce VandenHaak 4 pass from Simon Burkett (Taylor Snook kick).
R -- Angel Farias Ramos 44 pass from Christensen (Guerrer kick).
M -- Burkett 15 run (kick failed).
R -- Alonso Hernandez-Rangel 1 run (Guerrer kick).
M -- Dawson Logan 55 pass from Burkett (Burkett pass to Lukas Hernenway).
R -- Hernandez-Rangel 2 run (kick blocked).
M -- Burkett 10 run (kick failed).
R -- Hernandez-Rangel 7 run (kick blocked).