BURIEN – Sam Kopf wasn’t even breathing heavily.
The Seattle Prep running back had just completed the performance of his high school football career. He’d run for 300 yards, scored four touchdowns and almost single-handedly led the Panthers to a 3A round-of-32 victory over Kennedy, 28-21, at Highline Stadium.
Kopf carried the ball 31 times, including three touchdown runs. He caught two passes for 61 more yards and another score, giving him 361 yards of total offense.
“I could go another four quarters,” Kopf said with a straight face. “After that win, we’re peaking at the right time.”
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The win earns Seattle Prep (5-5) a first-round state playoff game next Friday or Saturday. The Panthers will play the winner of Saturday’s Mountlake Terrace at Mountain View game.
“We’ve always been a good football team,” Panthers coach Garrett Cook said. “We haven’t been healthy all year. We play in a really tough league. Now we are going to play our best football. Next week, we’ll be even better.”
Despite Kopf, for much of the contest on Friday it looked as though it would be the Lancers (5-5) who would advance.
Kopf got the scoring started early, breaking through the middle of the Kennedy defense and sprinting 67 yards with 8:44 to play in the first quarter.
The TD run gave Prep a 7-0 lead. It would last all of 35 seconds.
That’s because it took Kennedy just two plays — a 53-yard run from Nate Randall and a 2-yard touchdown plunge from Colin Cossette — to tie it, 7-7, with 8:19 left in the quarter.
A missed extra point after Kopf’s second touchdown, this one a 41-yard pass reception from Jackson Hazzard, left the Panthers trailing 14-13 at the half.
Kopf had carried it 18 times for 133 yards at the break.
On Seattle Prep’s first possession of the second half, he went back to work. On the third play of the drive, Kopf again broke through the line and got to the outside.
He went 66 yards this time, then converted the 2-point conversion run, to give Seattle Prep a 21-14 lead with 8:40 left in the third quarter.
That advantage lasted until there was 4:39 left in the game. It was then that Luis Diaz got into the end zone for the Lancers, scoring on a fourth-and-one play with a hard-fought run into the middle of the line.
It tied the game at 21, and created the possibility of a fantastic finish.
Kopf just made that finish happen on the next play from scrimmage.
Seattle Prep got the ball on its own 31-yard line after the Kennedy kickoff. Hazzard handed the ball to Kopf, who bore his way into the right side of the line.
Dark blue Lancer jerseys converged. White Seattle Prep linemen plowed forward, with Kopf in behind them.
The pile kept moving, slowly, past the 35, past the 40. Then Kopf somehow squirted out the front by himself.
“That’s what we do,” Cook said. “We were inspired by Stanford. It’s our power game. That’s our identity play. He just kept moving his legs.”
Indeed. After emerging from the crowd, Kopf eluded two more would-be tacklers and took off down the left hash mark.
He stopped 69 yards later, again in the end zone with the game-winning score. The run left Kopf with 283 yards rushing on 27 carries. He would carry it four more times to get to the 300 mark as Prep ran out the clock.
“I could have never anticipated this,” Kopf said of huge numbers, even though he rushed for 250 yards a week before. “Yeah, but 250 is not 300. It was all O-line tonight.”
Who knows what it will be a week from now. All Kopf knows is that the Panthers will be playing again.