The Class 4A Greater St. Helens League remains Skyview country.
In a game that lived up to its billing, the Storm won the fourth quarter and escaped McKenzie Stadium with a 37-34 victory over the Union Titans for the league championship.
It is Skyview’s third consecutive league title, and it was Union’s first loss against a Clark County opponent since 2007. The Titans were also trying for a third consecutive league crown after winning the past two 3A GSHL titles before moving up to the 4A ranks.
Something had to give.
Skyview will host Todd Beamer of Federal Way in a state-qualifying playoff, likely at 4 p.m. Nov. 6 at Kiggins Bowl.
Union will play Bothell on the road in a game expected to be played Nov. 5.
Kieran McDonagh completed 17 of 22 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns, the Storm got a defensive touchdown from a sophomore lineman, and Nick Phillips drilled three field goals.
The Storm needed every one of those plays.
Union trailed 17-0 before anybody could get warm, the victim of three turnovers in the first quarter.
But the Titans rallied, tying the game at 27 late in the third quarter, setting up a 12-minute time frame for a third consecutive championship for one of these teams.
Turned out, it was Skyview.
“This means everything. Geez. Since the eighth grade, it’s always been NBLC, Nothing But League Champs,” said Skyview senior Ellis Henderson, who had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. “We’ve got NBLC on T-shirts, on banners, on stickers. Everything is NBLC. This is what we practice for. This is what we do everything for.”
Skyview took a 30-27 lead on Phillips’ third field goal of the game, this one from 31 yards out, with 9:39 remaining. The Skyview defense gave up some yards, but ended up stopping the Titans on downs five minutes later.
That led to McDonagh’s third TD pass of the game, a swing pass to Reiley Henderson, who broke it for a 43-yard touchdown for a 37-27 advantage with 2:14 left.
“We thought we’d catch them off guard. We thought they’d think we just run the ball,” McDonagh said. “Reiley made a great move up the sideline and took it to the house.”
Reiley Henderson said his first thought was just to stay in bounds, keep the clock running.
“Then I saw the sideline and no one was there,” he said. “It was open. It gave us a little more breathing room for our defense.”
It was needed.
The Titans bounced right back. Quarterback Kaben Humphrey-Butler escaped a sack and found Zak Browning for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 remaining.
Flashback: Union trailed by 17 in last year’s 3A GSHL title game against Camas, but scored three touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the game. The Titans had to recover an onside kick to get that win.
Not in 2010, though. The Union onside kick was easily recovered by the Storm, who then ran out the clock.
“We kept fighting, and we finished it in the end,” Reiley Henderson said.
Skyview coach Steve Kizer took time during the post-game celebration to celebrate the game itself.
“Our kids played so hard, our coaches coached so hard, and the crowd cheered so hard. It was unbelievable,” he said. “That was a great effort by both teams.”
Union coach Cale Piland said the league championship would have been the preferred route for the Titans, but he was thrilled with his team’s perseverance.
“I am really proud of them. It would have really, really been easy for them to cash it in at that point,” Piland said, referring to the 17-0 hole in the first nine minutes of the game. “We didn’t do that. We had a lot of kids step up tonight and have some big performances. There was no quit in the kids tonight.”
Sophomore defensive lineman William Lopez got it started for the Storm, sniffing out a screen pass, intercepting it, and running it back 19 yards for a 7-0 lead.
“I just grabbed it, and my instincts told me to run to the end zone,” Lopez said. “I couldn’t believe it. I like to think everybody contributed to it. I was just grateful that I got to be a part of this.”
Phillips then made a short field goal for a 10-0 lead after Skyview recovered a Union fumble.
“It just feels good to help our team defend our title and keep our tradition going,” Phillips said of Skyview’s fourth league title in the past five years.
The Titans had yet another turnover on their third possession, this time leading to Ellis Henderson’s 33-yard touchdown pass from McDonagh.
The offenses ruled the second quarter.
The Titans would score the next two touchdowns — Humphrey-Butler ran one in from five yards out, then hit Tanner Nelson on a 30-yard pass to make it 17-13.
Mo Morrison caught back-to-back passes from McDonagh, including a 17-yard touchdown for a 24-13 lead with 2:58 left in the half.
Then it was Union’s turn, with Browning scoring on a 13-yard run just a minute later.
Phillips was true from 37 yards away to make it 27-20 late in the third quarter. That just meant it was Union’s turn to score, and Brandon Brody-Heim broke free on a 35-yard run to tie the game.
Union’s defense held Skyview’s running game in check for most of the night. Parker Henry, a 1,000-yard rusher this season, was held to 39 yards on 17 carries.
So the Storm went to the air instead, and McDonagh only threw four incompletions and one interception.
Browning led Union with 103 yards rushing. Brody-Heim added 80. Humphrey-Butler finished 12 for 17 for 177 yards and two touchdowns (plus one rushing TD) with one interception.
This night, in the end, belonged to the Storm.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” McDonagh said.
The Skyview fans who rushed the field could tell you it looks a lot like a championship for Storm. After all, they’ve seen a lot of these recently.
SKYVIEW 37, UNION 34
Skyview 17 7 3 10—37
Union 0 20 7 7—34
Sky — William Lopez 19 interception return (Nick Phillips kick)
Sky — Phillips 22 FG
Sky — Ellis Henderson 33 pass from Kieran McDonagh (Phillips kick)
U — Kaben Humphrey-Butler 5 run (Hudson Poissant kick)
U — Tanner Nelson 30 pass from Humphrey-Butler (kick blocked)
Sky — Mo Morrison 17 pass from McDonagh (Phillips kick)
U — Zak Browning 13 run (Poissant kick)
Sky — Phillips 37 FG
U — Brandon Brody-Heim 35 run (Poissant kick)
Sky — Phillips 31 FG
Sky — Reiley Henderson 43 pass from McDonagh (Phillips kick)
U — Browning 5 pass from Humphrey-Butler (Poissant kick)
Rushing — Skyview: Parker Henry 17-39, McDonagh 9-27; Union: Browning 16-103, Brody-Heim 13-80, Humphrey-Butler 7-29.
Passing — Skyview; McDonagh 17-22-1-235; Union: Humphrey-Butler 12-17-1-177.
Receiving — Skyview: R. Henderson 3-71, E. Henderson 6-70, Forrest Russell 4-47, Morrison 3-40, Henry 1-7; Union: Ray Burney 2-64, Nelson 2-49, T.J. Boatright 2-22, Tre Christensen 2-17, Browning 3-14, Brody-Heim 1-11.