Bailey Nance got to be the hero for the Olympia High School football program on Friday night in Tacoma.
With 11 seconds to go, cradling a seven-point lead over Bellarmine Prep, the Olympia senior linebacker hovered in coverage as Lions quarterback Marcus Stowers rolled out to his left.
Nance followed as Stowers tried to throw into coverage, snatched the ball out of the air, and the Bears escaped the Lions with a 28-21 win.
“I ran straight out, saw the ball coming in, and almost dropped it — but thank goodness I didn’t,” Nance said. “That was amazing. Best play of my life.”
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Nance’s late interception stymied a Bellarmine Prep rally that yielded three touchdowns in the second half, and erased an early Olympia lead.
“They played really smart football,” Olympia coach Steve Davis said. “Anytime you come to Bellarmine it’s always a nip-and-tuck game either way.”
Stowers, a sophomore, connected with senior Christian Brown for a 75-yard score on the Lions’ second drive of the third quarter.
Another long pass from Stowers to Brown set up a 4-yard scamper by sophomore Derrion Summers on Bellarmine Prep’s next drive.
And Tim Jensen barreled through the middle of the line for another 4-yard score minutes later, tying the game at 21-21, and erasing a lead Olympia carried until 5:42 remained in the fourth quarter.
“They got the quarterback out of the pocket,” Davis said. “He’s a pretty dynamic kid for a sophomore. They were able to find some weak spots on us at times.
“But, in the end we cleaned it up and were able to come away with the victory.”
After punting on three consecutive drives in the second half — all three-and-outs — the Bears put together a 74-yard drive to score with 40 seconds to play.
Two long passes from senior quarterback Ketner Young to senior Ibi Ceesay (27 and 38 yards) set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by senior Owen Shea.
“We saw a mismatch, and we took advantage of it a couple times,” Davis said.
Stowers completed four quick passes on the ensuing drive of 10, 4, 8 and 7 yards before the Lions called timeout with 11 seconds left and the ball at Olympia’s 39-yard line.
Davis figured the Bears were looking at two plays to avoid a potential score. But it only took one.
“We were fortunate enough to get into nickel coverage, and Bailey Nance was the hero,” Davis said.
Olympia built an early lead aided by two Kenneth Dinyuy field goals (26 and 32 yards) in the first half. Another 1-yard touchdown plunge by Young gave the Bears a 13-0 cushion at the break.
Olympia held Bellarmine to just 70 yards of offense in the first half.
Shea’s first touchdown run (14 yards) gave Olympia a a 21-0 lead with 4:42 remaining in the third. He finished with 21 carries for 115 yards and the two scores.
Young was 11 of 25 passing for 133 yards, and scored the one rushing touchdown, while Ceesay caught six passes for 105 yards.
Ceesay also blocked a Lions field goal attempt as the first half expired.
“We played really good on defense — we held them scoreless,” Shea said.
The Bears sacked Stowers four times during the game, and picked him off twice.
But, the Lions found some momentum in the second half, scoring on three consecutive drives.
Stowers rallied to finish 5 of 15 passing for 135 yards with one touchdown, and Summers churned out 91 yards and the one touchdown on the ground.
Brown, who didn’t catch a pass in the first half, finished with four receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Olympia broke a streak in this former Class 4A Narrows League rivalry that has seen the home team win the past three seasons.
The Bears and the Lions joined the 4A South Puget Sound League together, along with South Kitsap, a year ago.
Since the annual Spaghetti Bowl rivalry game with Capital was put on hold last year, Bellarmine Prep became Olympia’s longest running annual game.
The Bears and Lions have played each other every year since 1999, and Olympia has won the past two meetings.
“It is the closest thing we have to a rival anymore, and I think the kids are starting to believe that,” Davis said.
Olympia 3 10 8 7_28
Bellarmine Prep 0 0 7 14_21
O – Kenneth Dinyuy 26 field goal
O – Ketner Young 1 run (Dinyuy kick)
O – Dinyuy 32 field goal
O – Owen Shea 14 run (Cameron Kendall pass from Young)
BP – Christian Brown 75 pass from Marcus Stowers (Nick Kokich kick)
BP – Derrion Summers 4 run (Kokich kick)
BP – Tim Jensen 4 run (Kokich kick)
O – Shea 1 run (Dinyuy kick)