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LAKE STEVENS, Wash. – The way it began had to bolster Gonzaga Prep’s hopes of a state quarterfinal football upset on Saturday evening.

The Bullpups took the opening kickoff and drove 71 yards in 11 plays against No. 2 seed Lake Stevens in their State 4A playoff game, grabbing the early seven-point lead when Lilomaiava Mikaele pushed into the end zone on fourth down from the Vikings 1-yard line.

The methodical possession took 4 minutes off the clock and featured 10 plays on the ground to go with Jojo Shortell’s 22-yard pass connection with Nick Bankey for a big first down. That first drive also proved to be the high point of an eventual 42-17 loss to the Vikings.

The victory propels the Vikings (10-2) into a semifinal contest against sixth-seeded Graham-Kapowsin on Saturday.

“They’re a talented football team, really well coached, and they got us,” Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna said.

After that first possession, the game turned into the Jayden Limar show. The Notre Dame-bound senior beat the Bullpups (9-3) on the ground and through the air. He finished with 197 yards and four touchdowns rushing on 21 carries, and caught three passes for another 89 yards and a fifth TD.

“He’s exceptional,” McKenna said. “But they’ve got other players who are pretty danged good. I’m pretty danged proud of our kids. Love ’em. Wouldn’t trade ’em. We came out on the wrong end of the football game, but give them credit. They’re a pretty tough football team.”

After Mikaele’s game-opening score, Lake Stevens marched back down the field. It took the Vikings five plays and less than 2 minutes to get Paul Vareda into the end zone with a 9-yard run that tied this one at 7 with 6:13 to go in the first half.

Vareda’s touchdown was the only one for Lake Stevens that didn’t involve Limar. Still, Gonzaga Prep briefly stayed in it. The Bullpups trailed 14-7 when they got the ball back for their third possession of the game.

Gonzaga Prep put together a second solid drive that finally stalled at the Vikings 10-yard line. Matthew Herzog hit a 27-yard field goal that closed the gap to 14-10 with 9:55 to play in the first half.

“We knew it was going to be a punch, counterpunch game,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said.

The next counterpunch came courtesy of Limar. On second-and-8, Limar motioned right and turned upfield. Lake Stevens quarterback Kolton Matson laid a pass just over a Bullpups defender that Limar grabbed and started for the end zone.

At the 5, he encountered defensive back Tommy Camp, who got two hands on the Vikings’ back. But Limar extended an arm, pushed Camp to the turf and got into the end zone for a 28-yard scoring catch and a 21-10 lead at the half.

“I knew our offense was going to handle it,” Limar said. “It’s a team thing. If I am taking over a game, our offensive line is taking over the game. Our quarterback is taking over the game. It was absolutely great being able to dominate as a whole team.”

The loss ended the season for G-Prep and it’s seniors, which had Mikaele and a few of his teammates wiping away a few tears after the final horn.

“It’s saying goodbye to my boys and our coaches,” Mikaele said . “I’m not going to play with them again here. That’s what hurt the most to me.”

The Bullpups had one final highlight happen late, after forcing a Lake Stevens punt with 5:03 left to play.

The game was out of reach at 42-10, but Bankey gave the Bullpups and their fans a final reason to cheer when he broke free along the left sideline, tip-toed along the side and went 68 yards with 4:43 left for what became the game’s final points.

The run gave Bankey 101 yards on the ground. Mikaele led the Bullpups with 122 yards.

High School Sports Focus