By Tyler Hemstreet
With a fourth straight appearance in the Class 1A football state finals on the line, Cascade Christian coach Randy Davis knew exactly who to turn to.
After all, the Cougars don’t call Jake Archer “Mr. Clutch” for nothing.
The senior receiver hauled in a pass from quarterback Jaelin Goldsmith on a two-point conversion to lift the fifth-ranked Cougars to a thrilling 29-28 victory in triple-overtime over second-ranked Montesano in the semifinals Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Cascade Christian (10-2) will play No. 2 Connell for the third year in a row in the title game, set for 1 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Tacoma Dome. Cascade Christian defeated the Eagles last season, while Connell won in 2009.
“On that last play, I told Jaelin if Jake is even close to being open, you get it to him,” Davis said.
Archer went in motion before the snap and settled near the center of the end zone. Rolling to his right, Goldsmith floated in a near-perfect pass.
“Usually they jump me and (Joshua Shreffler) gets open,” said Archer, who finished with seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. “I started shouting to Jaelin, ‘Oh shoot, gimme the ball, man!’”
Archer and Shreffler were a much-needed safety net all afternoon for the freshman Goldsmith.
“In the huddle, they are the leaders and who I look up to,” said Goldsmith, who finished 18 of 28 for 211 yards and three touchdowns. “When things in my mind flutter around, they keep me on track.”
It took Montesano (12-1) just two plays to score on its opening possession of the third overtime, as Evan Truax converted on a 2-yard touchdown run and Elliot Mendenhall added the extra point. The Cougars answered, as Goldsmith hit Archer with a 9-yard touchdown pass on a fade route in the corner of the end zone on third down. Davis didn’t think twice about going for two and the win.
“We had to,” the coach said. “Our defense had nothing.”
The final possession capped off a great back-and-forth battle between two of the best teams in Class 1A.
“I’ve been in a lot of (great games) but this has to rank up there, that’s for sure,” Davis said.
After neither team scored in the first overtime, Cascade Christian’s Alex Milton scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Cougars a 21-14 lead after the extra point. But Montesano came right back, evening the score on Tucker Ibabao’s 7-yard touchdown run.
“Leadership stepped up in this game a whole lot,” Archer said. “(Shreffler) and I and a couple of seniors pulled together and said, ‘This is all it’s going to be. We are not losing this game.’ We have faith in our guys and that’s what it’s all about, believing in each other.”
Shreffler stepped up earlier in the game, hauling in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Goldsmith just before halftime to tie the game at 7 all. Kyle Crawford also had a touchdown reception for the Cougars, a 32-yard catch with 8:32 left the fourth quarter that gave Cascade Christian a 14-7 lead.