With the game, the season, and a fourth consecutive state championship on the line, Skyline defensive back Damien Greene had a hunch the ball was headed his direction.
“I just had a gut feeling,” said the 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior.
With 26 seconds left in Saturday’s 4A state semifinal, Curtis opted to go for a two-point conversion and win instead of kicking an extra point to force potential overtime.
Rolling out to his right, Vikings’ quarterback Tyler Jamison targeted receiver Jordan Copeland in the back of the end zone. That’s when Greene made his move, stepping in front of the receiver for the interception, sealing a 35-34 victory at the Tacoma Dome.
“We were in man coverage and I didn’t want to get my eyes off the backfield,” Greene said. “When he broke on that out it was all instincts, I just had to make a play.”
Asked if it was the biggest of his career, there was no hesitation.
“Most definitely,” Greene said, smiling. “That play sends us to the state championship.”
The last-second heroics capped a ferocious second-half comeback by the Spartans, who trailed by three touchdowns twice in the first half — 21-0 and 28-7.
The come-from-behind victory mirrored another Skyline game in the Tacoma Dome — the 2007 3A state championship against O’Dea.
“When we got down 21-0, I was thinking O’Dea all over again,” said sophomore quarterback Max Browne, who remembers sitting in the Dome and watching then Spartan sophomore and current BYU quarterback Jake Heaps come from behind to get a victory.
Browne did his best reenactment Saturday, connecting on 27 of 42 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns.
The largest of those hookups came with 4:23 left in the game when Browne found senior Kasen Williams on a short screen. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound University of Washington bound receiver cut through the Curtis defense, broke three tackles down the right sideline and forced his way into the end zone for an 85-yard score and 35-28 lead — Skyline’s first of the game. The touchdown came just one play after Williams intercepted Jamison at the 15-yard line.
“I was real determined,” said Williams, who had nine catches for 146 yards. “I knew this was a time for me to make a play. I provided for my team last week against Issaquah with some plays and this was another one of those opportunities where it was just now or never.”
The Vikings didn’t fold, however.
Curtis marched 80 yards in just over 4 minutes, capping off its drive with a 5-yard TD pass from Jamison to CJ Langlow. The touchdown pushed the score to 35-34, before two-point try ended up in the hands of Greene.
“Our defense stepped up and just played unbelievable in the second half,” Skyline head coach Mat Taylor said. “That’s what we needed. Your offense can keep scoring points but if you can’t stop them you’re not going to get it done.”
Prior to the fourth-quarter scoring drive, Skyline held Curtis to 83 second-half yards, forcing three punts, a fumble and an interception.
Skyline’s offense found its groove with 59 seconds left in the first half when Browne hit senior wide receiver Teran Togia on a 6-yard TD, pulling the halftime score to 28-14.
It was the first of three TD catches for Togia, who had five catches for 47 yards. He caught scoring passes of 22 and 6 yards in the second half to pull the score even at 28-28. All of his grabs came on either third or fourth down.
“All I know, if it’s coming to me, I’m catching it,” Togia said. “I’m not dropping it because I’m not going to let my team down.”
Curtis jumped out to its fast start via a 2-yard TD run from Jamison. The senior quarterback then found senior Rahmel Dockery on touchdown passes of 11, 48 and 9 yards.
Skyline’s first score came on a freak play. Browne threw an interception into arms of Langlow, who then coughed the ball up on a big hit from John Herrington. Sophomore Nic Sblendorio picked the loose ball up at the 5-yard line and ran it in untouched.
The Spartans, who improved to 12-1 overall, will play at 4 p.m., Saturday for their fourth straight state title against Ferris (13-0).
“We’ve been working the whole summer up until now,” Togia said. “It just feels really great to finally get here and show what we’ve got.”