An unfortunate part of football is that one team will ultimately go home a loser. When that loss is an agonizing last-second defeat, the emotions tend to run deeper.
Make it a playoff game, and it can be almost too much to swallow.
“I feel like I got kicked in the stomach right now,” said Newport coach Mike Miller minutes after the Knights’ 38-35 home loss to Bellarmine Prep on Saturday in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
The loss came after Newport jumped out to a 21-0 lead and then built a 35-21 fourth-quarter advantage. No. 10 Bellarmine Prep, though, scored 17 points in the final three minutes, capped by a 20-yard field goal by Matthew Philichi with 9.7 seconds remaining, to reach the 4A state quarterfinals and a matchup with Bothell.
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“I’m proud of their effort and they gave everything they had to give and left it on the field,” Miller said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them for that. I just feel it for the seniors right now because it’s over.”
Newport was done in partly by its inability to stop Bellarmine Prep wide receiver Garrett McKay. McKay, who was a favorite target for quarterback Lou Millie throughout the game, caught a 57-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-nine with three minutes left to cut the deficit to 35-27 after Philichi missed the extra point.
McKay, who had 243 yards on 14 catches, came up big again on the next possession, hauling in a 42-yard reception that set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Jamal Ervin with 1:42 remaining.
Forced to go for the two-point conversion to tie the game, Millie threw low to a diving Drew Griffin, who somehow held on to the ball with just his left hand to knot the game at 35.
Instead of playing for overtime by handing the ball to bruising back Conner Baumann, who led the Knights with 169 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Newport ran two passing plays — both of which fell incomplete. A failed fake-punt attempt gave Bellarmine Prep the ball on the Newport 37 with 47 seconds left. A 24-yard reception by Griffin set up the game-winning field goal.
“All I can say is our kids didn’t give up, plain and simple,” Bellarmine Prep head coach Tom Larsen said. “Just awfully proud of them.”