Tomasi Manu said it all, as the River Ridge High School faithful cheered in the background.
“We just had to fight hard, fight all the way through,” the junior quarterback said. “We knew we could do it.”
With White River threatening to tie the game for the fourth time with less than two minutes remaining, the Hawks (6-3) held, and watched a fourth-down pass sail out of the back of the end zone.
River Ridge’s sideline erupted as the Hawks set up in victory formation on Friday night at South Sound Stadium, recording a 35-27 win that sends them to the Class 2A state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
“We have heart, that’s what we have,” Manu said. “We’ve been fighting hard this whole season.”
Manu finished 10 of 14 passing for 178 yards and four total touchdowns to pace the Hawks, while junior running back Maleko Mina added another 106 yards on 26 carries and a score.
The Hornets struck first, and struck fast. On the first play of their first drive, Devyn Hager broke a 60-yard run, and seven plays later Luke Northam side-stepped a defender for a 4-yard score.
But the Hawks answered less than three minutes later, when Manu threw a 20-yard strike to Lamar Campbell in the back of the end zone.
Two drives later, the Hawks were set up at midfield after a White River punt. On the first play, Manu streaked down the sideline on a keeper, and cut back inside before he was tackled at the 1-yard line.
Mina spun off of a defender on the next play for a touchdown.
River Ridge forced a fumble on White River’s next possession, and drove to the 6-yard line before the Hornets popped the ball out of Manu’s hands.
Jack Ervien got loose on the first play of the ensuing drive, carrying the ball 64 yards to set the Hornets up at River Ridge’s 27.
The Hawks forced a fourth-and-13, but Hager nearly took a 29-yard burst to the end zone. Northam then punched in his second touchdown from the 1-yard line to tie the score at 14-14.
River Ridge again had a quick answer. Manu hit Campbell on back-to-back plays for 34 yards, and then a 22-yard score with 36.8 seconds to play in the first half.
But Jacob Selander returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards down the sideline for the Hornets to take a 21-21 tie into the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, River Ridge blocked a field goal attempt early in the fourth.
Manu completed a 50-yard pass to Kieran Hunkin to set the Hawks up at the 5. Manu punched in another 1-yard score three plays later.
He scored his fourth touchdown of the game on River Ridge’s next drive, connecting with Keianu Trinidad for an 11-yard score, and giving the Hawks a 14-point cushion.
The Hornets answered two plays later on a 32-yard pass from Stroschein to tight end Michael Pedreira, but that was as close as they got.
White River forced a punt on River Ridge’s next drive, but stalled on the 18-yard line in the final minutes.
WR – Luke Northam 4 run (Chris Dominguez kick)
RR – Lamar Campbell 20 pass from Tomasi Manu (Jacob Miller kick)
RR – Maleko Mina 1 run (Miller kick)
WR – Northam 1 run (Dominguez kick)
RR – Campbell 22 pass from Manu (Miller kick)
WR – Jacob Selander 70 kickoff return (Dominguez kick)
RR – Manu 1 run (run failed)
RR – Keianu Trinidad 11 pass from Manu (Mina run)
WR – Michael Pedreira 32 pass from TJ Stroschein (run failed)