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Bellarmine Prep upends Auburn in state 4A semifinal | SLIDESHOW
You could barely hear Auburn football coach Gordon Elliott as he addressed the Trojans after their 21-19 state Class 4A semifinal loss to Bellarmine Prep last Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
Just a few yards away the jubilant Lions (12-1) and their fans noisily celebrated the win and a berth in this weekend's state championship against No. 1 Skyline (13-0).
For the unranked Trojans (10-3), there was no joy, no slaps on the back.For the warriors of Troy, there was merely a third-place trophy, plenty of tears and a quiet bus ride home.
Despite the din, Elliott's words to his dispirited program rang out loud and clear.
"It hurts because of how much time you put in," Elliott told his players. "There are only two teams in the whole state that are still in it. You fought a great battle. Hold your heads high. Nobody in the state expected us to be here. It only hurts because of how much we put into it."
After finishing 4-6 and missing the playoffs last year – and kicking off the season with a 31-6 drubbing to South Puget Sound League North rival Kentwood – nobody expected much from Auburn.
Somebody forgot to tell the Trojans that, however, as they reeled off a 7-1 league record and swept through the postseason, notching wins against Olympia, Eastmont of Wenatchee and fifth-ranked Mead of Spokane, becoming the only unranked team in the 4A final four.
Against the Lions, Auburn proved it belonged in the Dome, slugging it out with No. 4 Bellarmine.The Trojans struck first on their opening-game drive, with senior Harold Lee capping a 10-play, 69-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown. Lee finished the game with a team-high 10 carries for 96 yards. The conversion kick was no good.
The Lions responded with Colorado-bound quarterback Sefo Liufua engineering a 79-yard drive and capping it with a 1-yard TD run.
Liufua also threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Drew Griffin in the second quarter for a 14-6 Lions' lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Auburn senior fullback Jacob Waldo galloped 38 yards to the end zone. The Trojans failed to convert on the two-point conversion, leaving the score at 14-12.
In the fourth quarter, Liufua found Garrett McKay from 21-yards out, putting Bellarmine up 21-12 with 8:31 left to play. Liufua finished with 6-of-13 passing for 124 yards, an interception and two touchdowns.
Auburn closed the gap to 21-19 with a Darnell Hagans' 70-yard run with 6:30 remaining.
The Trojans were unable to stop running back Lou Millie, who helped the Lions grind out the final minutes of the game and earn their shot at the title. Bellarmine takes on Skyline at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Dome for the crown.
"I thought it was going to be a hard struggle, a hard physical game," Elliott said. "It was a great game, a great season. So close."
Hagans had 95 yards rushing with a TD and an interception. Junior quarterback Brier Atkinson finished with 3-of-5 passing for 36 yards and an interception.Kieo Buchanan had 38 yards on nine carries.
"We expected to be here. We fought every day at practice and every day through the week," Lee said. "We put all that work in for this. This year working with my brothers, it was a great run for all of us."