As the last-gasp pass fell harmlessly to the turf, and the final horn sounded on the fourth quarter clock, the disbelief turned to despair for Newport.
Bellarmine Prep erased a 21-0 first half deficit and scored the game’s final 10 points in two minutes to stun the Knights 38-35 on a 20-yard field goal from Matthew Philichi with only nine seconds left, ending Newport’s season in crushing fashion.
“It is like a punch in the gut,” head coach Mike Miller said.
Senior Drew Sample’s second receiving touchdown of the night from quarterback J.P. Routen went for 54-yards and again pushed the Newport lead to 14 after the Lions fought back to within a score early in the fourth quarter.
The Knights seemed destined for a second straight quarterfinal trip after a quick three-and-out from Bellarmine Prep on its next drive, even when their own eight-play foray ended in a punt.
But it took only six plays and less than two minutes for senior quarterback Lou Millie to find senior Garrett McKay for a 43-yard score that made it 35-27 with three minutes remaining after a gust of wind knocked down the Lions’ extra point attempt.
Millie and the offense got the ball back with just more than two minutes left four plays later, and it took them only two plays to get in the end zone from 35 yards out, using a Jamal Ervin touchdown to pull within two.
That set the stage for the game’s most improbable play, as Drew Griffin rolled over in the end zone with the ball between his legs after Millie hit him in the chest with a pass, sending the crowd silent and officials to a conference in the end zone.
“Lou put it right on me,” Griffin said. “It was a perfect ball.”
While the offense found its rhythm through the air, with Millie completing eight of his final 10 passes (including a spike to stop the clock before the field goal) for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns, the defense bottled up Newport’s once-potent running game and also snuffed out a fake punt to setup the game-winning field goal.
Routen found Sample for a 51-yard score on the game’s first drive and after the Knights forced a punt to set up Baumann, who ripped off the first of his three touchdown runs on the game, 52-yards through several tackles to make it 14-0.
A turnover on downs and a 54-yard Baumann scoring run had the game looking lopsided and put the Knights firmly in control before Millie orchestrated the first of two scoring drives before the break to stay within touch before making their push in the game’s final minutes.
The loss ends the season for the Knights one game short of last year’s state quarterfinal appearance, and marks the final game in the prep careers of Baumann, Sample and a host of other seniors, a fact Miller said was the most upsetting part of the loss.
“I’m feeling it in my heart right now, especially for our seniors,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of them.”