Defense wins championships, and the Kamiakin High School football team can tell you all about that after its 14-7 overtime win over O’Dea Saturday in the Class 3A state title game.
Sure, it was quarterback Zach Borisch’s 53-yard touchdown strike to wide out Darreon Moore near the end of regulation that tied it, and then Borisch’s 15-yard touchdown scamper in overtime that gave the Braves (12-2) their only lead of the game. But when the offense couldn’t move the ball for the first 40 minutes, and when the Braves needed a fourth-and-1 stop in overtime to end it, it was the defense that kept Kamiakin alive and propelled it to its first football state championship.
“Defense. Defense, defense,” said Moore, who also plays cornerback. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. You saw that right there on that fourth-and-1.”
For players and coaches alike, winning the state title was a surreal experience.
“Six years ago, when we got smoked in the finals, it just... it’s so hard to get back here,” Kamiakin coach Scott Biglin said. “When we went on our run this year, it was like ‘okay, something could happen, you never know.’ And now, here we are.
“It’s a tremendous feeling. Other than when my kids were born... this is a pretty good day.”
Kamiakin spent the entire season letting its high-flying offense do the talking, but Saturday’s game moved a bit slower.
Neither side could move the ball in the first half as the teams combined for just 143 yards, but the Fighting Irish (13-1) changed that early in the second half. O’Dea got the ball after halftime at its 21-yard line and used consecutive runs of 43 and 20 yards by Jamyn Patu to put the game’s first points on the board.
Thanks to Kamiakin’s first three possessions of the second half ending in turnovers (interception, downs, fumble) O’Dea had several great opportunities to extend its lead, but the Braves’ defense kept it from capitalizing, ending three Irish drives deep in Kamiakin territory.
Meanwhile, Kamiakin only needed to hit on two plays to make its only scoring drive in regulation. It started with Borisch hitting running back Jethro Questad on a swing pass out of the backfield that got the Braves out near midfield. Two plays later, Borisch hit Moore on a deep out route that tied the game at 7-7 with 4:24 to play.
“We had to do something special,” Borisch said. “They’re a good defense, and we had to come up with a special play. Darreon had a great route, he got open, and I just gave him the mail and we knew he was going to take it to the house.”
On the play, wide receiver Champ Grayson made a block around the O’Dea 20-yard line that sprung Moore for the touchdown. The effort didn’t go unnoticed by Moore on his way by for the score.
“If it wasn’t for Champ, I don’t know, this could have been a whole different game,” Moore said. “I thank him for everything.”
Even after the huge momentum swing, O’Dea appeared to be making its championship-winning drive as it marched 69 yards in 11 plays, eating more than four minutes off the clock, and setting up Stephen Powell — who was 0-for-2 in field goals at that point — with a potential game-winning 20-yard attempt. The kick looked good off Powell’s foot, but a Kamiakin player in the middle of the scrum got his hand on it and pushed it just right of the target to send the game into overtime.
Kamiakin took the ball first in overtime, and after a defensive holding penalty on third-and-10 gave the Braves a free first down, Borisch dashed off right tackle and followed his blockers for 15 yards for the eventual game-winning score.
“That run had nothing to do with me, that was all my line, all my receivers on the outside blocking on the edge that coach Nick (Thomas) preaches every week,” Borisch said.
O’Dea was unable to make a first down on its overtime possession, with a surge of Kamiakin defenders coming up the middle to stop running back Mark Tafia on the game-ending, fourth-and-1 stand.
“We just had the will to push through,” Moore said. “Fourth-and-1, for state, you know we’ve got to put everything on the line. That’s what we did.”