MOSES LAKE - The Colville players turned and held their arms in the air toward the far sidelines as Indians fans rose in triumphant cheer as time ticked down on longest active winning streak in the nation.
Royal senior Alonso Hernandez took a glance at the scoreboard clock, then knelt near midfield to gather himself. It was right there on Lions Field in Moses Lake, 54 games ago, in the 1A state quarterfinals Nov. 22, 2014, that the Knights last lost. Ironically enough, it was to this very same Colville program.
To his right, Javier Huitron, Logan Gomez, Micah Albert and Michael Perez, knelt on the turf at midfield, arm-in-arm, heads bowed as the Colville mayhem settled and the teams greeted each other for the postgame ritual in the background.
Hernandez threw a towel over his head, took one last look at the scoreboard, which read Colville 31, Royal 28. It wasn’t the 28-10 loss as it was back in 2014, but it stung just the same, some 53 games later.
The thing about the Royal Knights is that they don’t play for glory or winning streaks or fame or notoriety. They play for each other, they play for the Royal Slope. They win with dignity and even though they don’t do much losin’, they proved on Saturday with their collective hearts breaking, they showed they can lose with dignity as well.
As Knights fans gathered in front of the dressing rooms allowing the guys to collect themselves as they changed and made their way back out. The hundred, maybe two, let out a round of applause for every young man as he came out and met his friends and family. Former quarterback Kaden Jenks, who’s now at Weber State University, and all-state soccer player Michael Rojas, who’s a red-shirt over at University of Washington, took their place in the gathering of well-wishers. Once a Knight, always a Knight.
“This run has really been an honor to be a part of and I’ll never forget these guys,” Hernandez said inside, taking his time like the longer it took to get dressed and grab his stuff, the longer it would take to be over. “I think playing Royal football shaped who I am. We lost today, which was part of God’s plan I think, but I’ll always have this for the rest of my life.
“To know what it was like to play and win in the Dome. To make the run with my brothers, they really are like family, and to represent Royal to the best of our ability. It’s been special.”
As for the game, it’s not like the three-time defending 1A state champions came out and rolled over. The heavyweight slugfest featured five lead changes. Royal took a 21-17 lead with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter on a 52-yard scoring pass from Sawyer Jenks to Angel Farias. But the Tribe scored on its very next possession when Chase Kanamu got a step on the Royal defensive back and John Knight put it on him for a 33-yard scoring strike to make it a three-point Indians’ lead with 1:41 left in the third quarter.
Trevor Morrison stepped in front of a Jenks pass and returned it up the near sideline for the touchdown and the Knights, who had trailed only once in 12 previous games and certainly not in the fourth quarter, found themselves down 31-21 with 11:25 left in the game. The No. 5 Indians (10-2) couldn’t come up with the stop, and Royal rumbled down the field to score on a Hernandez 13-yard run right up the A-gap to close to three points.
There was the questionable spot on fourth down when the Knights came up a link in the chain short on a fourth down conversion on the Colville 30 when Royal was driving for a go-ahead score. There was the defensive holding on fourth down that gave the Indians the first down and allowed Colville to run out the clock at the end of the game, instead of giving Royal one last possession with 50 seconds remaining.
But there was also Lucas Michaelson’s 23-yard field goal and Jakob Larson’s 83-yard kick return for the touchdown in the second quarter, four Knights turnovers, including the pick 6.
It a slugfest where the contender knocked out the reigning champ to move onto the Tacoma Dome. Yep, it was Ali vs. Frazier to the last man standing.
“It’s been an honor to play with these guys,” Hernandez said. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll all come back and coach Royal football like the guys coaching us, pass something on to the younger guys.”
Colville 0 14 10 7 - 31
Royal 7 7 7 7 - 28
R - Angel Farias 74 pass from Sawyer Jenks (Osvaldo Guerrero kick)
C - John Knight 3 run (Lucas Michaelson kick)
R - Alonso Hernandez 15 run (Guerrero kick)
C - Jakob Larson 83 kick return (Michaelson kick)
C - Michaelson 23 field goal
R - Farias 52 pass from Jenks (Guerrero kick)
C - Chase Kanamu 33 pass from Knight (Michaelson kick)
C - Trevor Morrison 33 pass interception (Michaelson kick)
R - Hernandez 13 run (Guerrero kick)