In one of those fateful twists on the schedule, nonleague opponents Bethel and Yelm hooked up for a third time in two seasons Friday night,
Only this one meant a little more — a berth to the Class 3A state football playoffs.
And like the other games, this one came down to the fourth quarter, which the Braves took control of in holding off the Tornados, 32-22, at Art Crate Field in Spanaway.
Freshman Will Latu rushed for four touchdowns, including the game-winning 6-yard scamper with six minutes, six seconds remaining that capped a 73-yard march that ate up nearly four minutes.
Trailing 25-22, the Yelm offense could not get in position to go ahead one more time, turning the ball over on downs, and then throwing a late interception that was picked off by Tristyn Gese with less than two minutes to go.
Latu’s fourth score, a 7-yard touchdown run, sealed the deal, putting the Braves up, 32-22.
“It is the third time we’ve played them in two years, and they have always been choppy, sloppy games,” Bethel coach Mark Iddins said. “The difference tonight was that we were finally able to grind it out.”
The Tornados led this game on three different occasions, the last coming on James Palmer’s 1-yard touchdown run with 10:07 remaining. Palmer tallied all of Yelm’s scores.
And the Tornadoes were in position to make the state playoffs for the first time since 1987.
But the Braves, who face No. 3 Ferndale in the 3A first round in Bellingham, went on the decisive drive, led by Latu.
2A DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
At W.F. West 38, Woodland 35: Cory Davis kicked a 27-yard field goal on the final play, and the Bearcats posted a come-from-behind victory over the Beavers in Chehalis.
This will be W.F. West’s fifth consecutive trip to the 2A state playoffs under coach Bob Wollan.
But the 2A Evergreen Conference runners-up had to earn this one Friday night.
Trailing much of the game, the Bearcats tied it at 35-35 on quarterback Nole Wollan’s 15-yard touchdown strike to Leandre Gaines with 3:05 to go.
Woodland drove just past midfield, but stalled with 1:13 remaining, and the Bearcats had 72 yards to go for the game-winning score.
They drove to the Beavers’ 20 to set up a game-winning 37-yard field goal by Davis, which missed left.
But Woodland was called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty, giving Davis one more shot. He nailed it to send W.F. West (8-2) into the first round of the state playoffs.
2B DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
No. 9 Rainier 47, at No. 10 Wahkiakum 7: This was a special night for coach Terry Shaw and his group, which sewed up its first state trip since 1991 with a victory in Cathlamet.
The Mountaineers scored on all seven of their first-half drives, and picked off Wahkiakum quarterback Luke Brown four times in the second quarter.
“The cool part is, we just did our stuff,” Shaw said. “The kids were pretty amped up, but still pretty relaxed. We played confidently.”
Of course, it helps that their leader is the most confident teenager on the field — junior quarterback Zach Lofgren.
Lofgren threw three touchdown passes, ran 55 yards for another score — and began the second half with an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
And of Brown’s four interceptions, Lofgren picked him off three times.
In all, Lofgren finished with 283 all-purpose yards.
“He is just doing what he does, with a big ol’ smile on his face,” Shaw said.
Fifth-ranked Rainier finished with 346 yards on 31 plays, with 332 coming in the first half in building a 39-7 lead.
The Mountaineers (7-2) will play third-ranked Napavine (9-1) in the first round of the state playoffs next weekend at Centralia High School.