KENNEWICK - Coach Wiley Allred knew his Knights would be tested in their match up with the Panthers at Lampson Stadium Saturday as the two teams battled it out for the right to advance to the state championship game at the Tacoma Dome this weekend.
And it turns out, he was right, as Royal squeaked by River View 31-28 to remain unbeaten and will now face off with Montesano for all the marbles Saturday.
"It was a crazy game," Allred said. "The guys played hard ... we had a couple of touchdown passes dropped and turned the ball over a few times ... but the kids were resilient and stayed focused and we were able to pull out the win."
The game between the Knights and the Panthers was nothing close to an early season contest in which Royal dominated, 39-7. This time round it was a real donnybrook as the lead changed hands four times, and the outcome wasn't decided until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The Knights got on the board first on a 49-yard pass from Alex Myrick to Brady Dixon (Christian Guerrero kick) to go up 7-0. Royal pushed its lead to 13-0 (kick failed) to round out the first quarter scoring.
River View not to be out done, answered back with two scores in the second quarter of action to take its first lead of the game, 14-13. But a 5-yard Myrick TD pass to Kent Christensen (Dixon from Myrick) put Royal back in front 21-14 as the first half came to an end.
The Knights put the first points on the board in the third quarter of play as a River View snap on a punt attempt sailed out of the Royal end zone, giving the Knights two points and a 23-14 lead.
Back to back scores by the Panthers to end the quarter allowed River View to go back on top, 28-23.
Myrick hit pay dirt on an 11-yard run 34 seconds in to the final 12 minutes of action, then scored the 2-point conversion as the Knights regained the lead 31-28.
River View looked to be putting a stamp on its final possession to win the hard fought contest, but Myrick came up with a game saving tackle on fourth down and preserve the win for Royal.
"Alex made some key plays and other did as well," Allred said. "I thought our offensive line blocked well ... had a little trouble with their five-man rush ... but stepped up big when they needed to."
Myrick led the offensive attack once again for the Knights as he completed 12 of 24 passes for 202 yards, and carried the rock 28 times for 187 yards.
The win over River View puts Royal in a 1A state championship showdown with the Montesano Bulldogs Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Tacoma Dome. It will be the Knights eighth trip to the big stage in the school's history.
Royal was crowned state champion in 2007 after beating Connell 28-16.
"Montesano is a good disciplined team that throws well out of multiple formations," Allred said. "It's no fluke they beat King's or Mt. Baker to get to the final round."