Lilomaiava Mikaele powers Gonzaga Prep over Kamiakin 40-27; Bullpups reach state quarterfinal for second straight season


KENNEWICK — Lilomaiava Mikaele has led Gonzaga Prep in rushing yards and touchdowns all season. He helped the Bullpups earn the Greater Spokane League 4A seed for the district playoffs and a Week 10 crossover victory over Moses Lake to reach the state.

So why mess with a good thing once the first state round rolls around?

Mikaele carried 30 times for 190 yards with three touchdowns, and the visiting 10th-seeded Bullpups beat the seventh-seeded Kamiakin Braves 40-27 at Lampson Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s amazing,” said Mikaele. “It feels good to see our defense getting stronger and better every week. Same thing with our attack.

“And you can always, always praise our O-line because without them it’s going nowhere.”

“(Kamiakin) is a very good football team, obviously,” Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “And it was a battle.”

The Bullpups advance to a quarterfinal and travel next week to face second-seeded Lake Stevens, who outscored 15th-seeded North Creek 42-27 on Friday. Lake Stevens knocked out Gonzaga Prep 35-14 in the quarterfinals last season.

“As a blocker for Ryan McKenna (last year), it was hard to let it end there,” Mikaele said. “Being able to get revenge on them would mean everything.”

“I told the kids, you know, we can’t watch this,” McKenna said. “We will study our opponent, but that’s what we’re doing. I really believe it.

G-Prep led by a touchdown late in the third quarter when he recovered the ball at his 20 after a Kamiakin punt. Nick Bankey carried twice from 20 yards to give the Bullpups some breathing space, then Mikaele imposed his will on the defence.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound fullback carried 10 of the next 12 plays, including the last six, culminating with a 3-yard touchdown to make it 34-20 with just over 8 minutes left.

“Our guards were rising towards the backers,” Mikaele said. “They were completely squaring them, giving me back and forth. There’s just a lot to work from there.

“We find things that work,” McKenna said, “and we leave those guys up front and hope, you know, (the defense) got a little tired and I think that’s what when we can enjoy it.”

The teams traded empty possessions and then G-Prep’s Matthew Herzog threw the Kamiakin 1. The Braves went the distance in seven plays, with Carter Poland’s 8-yard pass to Gabe Tahir making it 34-27 with 2:38 to go.

Gonzaga Prep recovered the kick in play at 48. Mikaele chased down the first down and with Kamiakin defenders trying to strip the ball, he rumbled for 29 yards, leading the tacklers to 17.

“I’m not lying, I zoned out and all I saw was the end zone,” Mikaele said. “I was trying to get there by all means.”

Two games later, he took over from 14 to provide the final margin.

“You know, you draw an opponent, it’s a Friday night or a Saturday that you play and we’re just happy that we came out on top today,” McKenna said.

It didn’t start out so happy for G-Prep.

On Kamiakin’s second possession, 240-pound Devin Crow charged into the end zone on the third-and-2 goal to complete a nine-play drive. The extra point went wrong and Kamiakin led 6-0.

G-Prep went three times and returned it to Kamiakin at Braves 32. Poland found David Kuku on the sideline for 40 yards until G-Prep 23. Two plays later Poland rounded the left end for 16 yards for a score. The two-point attempt was stuffed and the Braves were leading 12-0 after one quarter.

Kamiakin missed a punt attempt and the Bullpups took over for the Braves 26. Four plays later, Noah Holman fed from 1. The extra point was blocked and G-Prep trailed 12-6.

Poland was picked up on a fourth pass by Kai Vancurler and he fired it at GP 45 with 3 minutes left in the half. JoJo Shortell gained 17 yards for the Braves 34 and Mikaele picked up 4 and 5 yards both to get first and the 9th with 45 seconds left.

Two plays later, he took it off the right plate from 3 yards in the end zone. Matthew Herzog’s extra point gave Gonzaga Prep a 13-12 lead at halftime.

“We faced a lot of adversity after those first three outs,” defensive lineman Luke Miller said. “We had a big save in the red zone but they scored twice, but we fought back. We forgot about it and just kept playing our ball and had a few turnovers.

“We made some unusual mistakes,” McKenna said. “Penalties that we cannot have. We will be better.

On the second play of the second half, G-Prep’s William Alexander-Durr jumped a breakout, had the interception and ran 38 yards for a touchdown to extend the Bullpups’ lead to 20-12 .

“I just did my job and saw the ball coming towards me,” Alexander-Durr said. “I just broke the ball and I was an athlete.”

But Kamiakin bounced back. A personal foul put them in G-Prep territory and then Poland hit Buchanan from 35 yards on the 4. Crow pounded him and his 2-point conversion run tied it at 20.

G-Prep forced an early punt to his 40. A post-play personal foul on defense moved him to Kamiakin’s side, then Shortell connected with Will Ohman – on his only end of the day – on the sideline for 31 yards for the 2. Two plays later, Holman remained untouched in the end zone and the Bullpups went up 27-20.

Holman finished with 53 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns. Poland went 27 of 48 for 374 yards for Kamiakin. Kuku had nine catches for 124 yards and Buchanan had eight for 129.

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