Royal has a state-best 41-game win streak after holding off Meridian in the title game 33-27.
TACOMA — Good thing Alonso Hernandez-Rangel stretched before Royal’s Class 1A state football championship game Saturday.
The junior running back’s final reach for the end zone with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the needed inch to seal a 33-27 win against Meridian at the Tacoma Dome. The victory gave Royal (14-0) its third straight title and improved the program’s win streak to a state-leading 41 games.
“I just lowered my shoulders and hoped for the best,” Hernandez-Rangel said of the go-ahead touchdown. “I know we won it two years before, but this is the most special to me.”
Meridian (13-1), which had its 13-game win streak snapped, fumbled the ball on its ensuing offensive drive. The Trojans had one more opportunity to win in the closing 38 seconds when it forced Royal to turn the ball over on downs.
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Senior quarterback Simon Burkett connected with junior Dawson Logan for 39 yards to get the ball to midfield. But a desperation heave to the end zone fell incomplete.
“We were still fighting and just came up short,” said Burkett, who’ll play for Eastern Washington next year. “This season, there were a lot more talented teams than us and we outworked them and deserved to be here. We just came up short.”
Royal scored 14 points in the closing three minutes of the second quarter to take a 21-13 lead into halftime. But Burkett was Royal’s main topic during the break, and it still took until the fourth quarter for the Knights to successfully defend the lithe player.
Burkett opened the third quarter with two passing plays, the second a 55-yard touchdown throw to Lawson to tie the score at 21 after a two-point conversion. In the fourth quarter, Burkett’s 10-yard scramble to the end zone tied the score again, at 27. The Trojans missed the PAT with 11:22 left in the game.
Burkett completed 22 of 47 passes for 305 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for 80 yards and another two touchdowns.
“We started with six-man pressure and finally changed to five and had a spy,” said Wiley Allred, who has coached Royal to seven of its eight state championships. “That saved us some 20-yard runs. That kid (Burkett) is a really good quarterback. But one of the keys was we were finally able to run the ball some and get some confidence. … This is phenomenal.”
Meridian defeated Royal 13-7 during its 2006 state-championship run. Longtime coach Bob Ames said he drilled his players on Royal’s size and physicality. Both were true Saturday.
“It was tense,” said Hernandez-Rangel, who finished with 148 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. “We like adversity and just want to grow from that. Thankfully we came up with the win.”