Bracketed between two defenders, with time ticking away, Timberline High School junior Jamarcus Graham leapt into the air.
He wrestled the football away from the two Kamiakin defensive backs on either side of him, and fell backward into the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown.
That catch, with 6.7 seconds left on the clock, sent Timberline’s sideline into an uproar. It sent the fans lining the bleachers into a frenzy.
And, for the first time in more than a decade, it sent the seventh-ranked Blazers to the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
“I had beat the corner, so I knew the safety was coming,” Graham said. “I saw the ball in his hands, so I just snatched it right out of his hands and brought it down as hard as I could.
“I was not giving up on that play.”
Just as the Blazers, still undefeated in 2017, refused moments earlier to give up on their season.
After losing a fumble with just over two minutes to play, the Blazers’ defense forced a quick three-and-out.
Quarterback Hunter Campau marched Timberline down the field, Graham’s miracle catch gave the Blazers the final lead, and they shocked the defending state champions, 26-22, at South Sound Stadium in Lacey.
“We just keep fighting,” Campau said. “We don’t want to lose, and we have that mentality right now that we’re going to keep fighting until the very last second, until it rings, until the game is over.”
The fifth-ranked Braves had a final shot after the ensuing kickoff sailed out of the back of the end zone, but Colton Steepy batted down Payton Flynn’s final pass attempt as time expired.
“It was like the biggest refreshing breath of fresh air,” Timberline coach Nick Mullen said. “We’ve been so close every single year. We’ve been to the state playoffs almost every year.
“We just haven’t been able to get that monkey off of our backs, and we finally did it.”
But Kamiakin nearly ended Timberline’s season in the same place it ended during the last five trips.
The Braves shut out the Blazers in the first half, causing six consecutive drives to come up empty, and recorded the only touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Following a Timberline fumble that set the Braves up on the Blazers’ 33, Flynn capped a short drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Benson Smith.
Kamiakin carried the 7-0 lead into the break, but Timberline struck immediately in the third quarter.
A 30-yard pass from Campau to sent senior Mason Simeta barreling down the sideline before he was forced out at the 6-yard line. Campau rushed for the tying score on the next play.
The Blazers took their first lead three plays later, when senior Michael Barnes picked off Flynn on a slant and darted 54 yards into the end zone.
But, after a mishandled PAT attempt, Kamiakin snatched the lead back midway through the third, when Flynn found Smith for another 13-yard score.
Timberline didn’t answer until midway through the fourth when Campau completed a 40-yard drive with a 3-yard keeper for a touchdown, and giving the Blazers a 19-14 lead.
Kamiakin fired right back to retake the lead with 4:59 to play. Flynn found Champ Grayson in the flat near midfield, and Grayson charged into the end zone for a 46-yard score.
The Braves completed the two-point conversion attempt on a pass from Flynn to Grayson to push the lead to 22-19.
Flynn finished 11 of 26 for 167 yards, the three touchdowns, and threw two interceptions.
Grayson led the Braves in receiving with 116 yards and a score on four catches, and Smith added 42 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.
But Timberline’s renowned defense held Kamiakin to just 35 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Even after a fumble gave Kamiakin the ball back, with the lead, with 2:44 to play, the Blazers dropped the Braves in the backfield on three straight plays to force a punt.
“They fought through adversity, and they rallied around each other,” Mullen said.
That’s when Campau led the Blazers on the game-winning drive. Campau spoke about his father, Doug, after the game, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this week.
Teammates, Graham in particular, told Campau that’s who they were playing for this week. Then, in the closing seconds, the two connected for that final touchdown.
“It made me feel good that he caught that (pass) and we won this game,” Campau said.
“It was a win we needed,” Mullen said. “And to knock off the state champs? That’s huge.”
Campau finished 11 of 18 passing for 217 yards and a score, adding 58 rushing yards on 22 attempts and two touchdowns.
Barnes led the Blazers in rushing with 77 yards on 16 carries, while Graham hauled in seven catches for 125 yards and the decisive touchdown.
Timberline (11-0) travels north to play No. 4 Bellevue (9-1) next week in the quarterfinals.
“We’re built for this, really,” Campau said of the late-game heroics. “We’re here, and we’re ready for anybody.”
NO. 5 KAMIAKIN
NO. 7 TIMBERLINE
K – Benson Smith 18 pass from Payton Flynn (Kaden Shymanski kick)
T – Hunter Campau 6 run (Tolby Selvester kick)
T – Michael Barnes 54 interception return (pass failed)
K – Smith 13 pass from Flynn (Shymanski kick)
T – Campau 3 run (pass failed)
K – Champ Grayson 46 pass from Flynn (Grayson pass from Flynn)
T – Jamarcus Graham 27 pass from Campau (Selvester kick)