A big first half — it led 28-0 at the break — gave Richland its first state title since 1999 with a 28-21 win over Woodinville.
TACOMA — For one half, Richland was every bit of its moniker Saturday night.
The Bombers decimated Woodinville’s game plan by halftime and tried to pick over the remnants to close out the Class 4A state championship game.
But the Tacoma Dome game clock was unmerciful. It allowed Woodinville to find new life despite being down 28-0 at halftime, but not enough time to pull off a comeback. Falcons senior quarterback Jaden Sheffey’s final pass was an interception, giving Richland a 28-21 win.
Richland (14-0) took home its first state title since 1999 and third overall.
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“It was relief in my heart,” said Richland quarterback Cade Jensen of watching teammate Adam Weissenfels grab the interception to end Woodinville’s possible game-winning drive. Weissenfels had three picks against Woodinville, which tied a Class 4A state title game record.
“I’ll be honest, I was surprised it was 28-0 at halftime,” Jensen continued. “We knew this game was going to be a grind. We knew it wasn’t going to be a blowout. When they stopped the run in the second half, we had to battle and got the win.”
The Falcons (13-1) played in their second state-championship game in school history (2005). It made headlines throughout the season behind its “Dark Side” defense. But the once-menacing defense was visibly gasping for air midway through the second quarter as Woodinville’s offensive struggles kept putting them back on the field.
Richland constantly had good field position. It opened the scoring with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jensen to Weissenfels with 2:33 left in the first quarter.
The Bombers scored three touchdowns in the second quarter. The final was after Sheffey fumbled the snap to give Richland the ball at the 17-yard line. Jensen used two plays to set up a 15-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Cervantes with 2:14 left in the half.
“They (Woodinville) had jitters for being in a game like this; we (were) there last year,” said Richland coach Mike Neidhold, whose team lost the title to Camas last season. “In a state-championship game like this with a good team like Woodinville, it wasn’t going to hold. This wound up just like I thought it would.”
Woodinville scored on a 1-yard run by senior Brett Accimus with 8:14 left in the third quarter. The Falcons used a trick play to get their second touchdown and a Sheffey scramble for the third to make the score 28-21 with 3:26 left.
However, the revived defensive play and execution on offense hit a dead end late in the fourth quarter. Richland ran out the clock and once the teams congratulated each other, Sheffey was the last to pull himself from the Tacoma Dome field.
Normally an even-keeled player, he said the emotion of suffering the first loss of the season and Saturday being the final game with 30 other seniors was almost unbearable. Teammates surrounded him and had a group prayer before finally leaving the field.
“We showed heart out there and didn’t give up,” said Sheffey, who completed 10 of 24 passes for 81 yards with three interceptions. “That’s what you want in a team. It’s hard. We’ve been waiting all of our lives for this and just came up short. That’s what happens.”