BOTHELL — Inglemoor quarterback Kolby Solomon rolled right and heaved a desparation pass toward the end zone.
Two Meadowdale players were in the vicinity, but it was Vikings receiver Luke Millman who came down with the jump ball before fighting his way across the goal line.
Millman’s leaping 34-yard touchdown grab with 17 seconds remaining — along with Inglemoor’s ensuing go-ahead, two-point conversion — dealt the youth-laden Meadowdale football team a season-opening 29-28 non-league loss Thursday night at Pop Keeney Stadium.
“When you have this many young kids on defense, they’re going to make mistakes, and you just grow through it,” Mavericks coach Matt Leonard said. “Of course we wanted to win, but you’ve just to keep growing. Your biggest improvement comes from week one to week two.”
INGLEMOOR’S GAME-WINNING DRIVE
Holding a 28-21 lead with just over three minutes to play, Meadowdale pinned the Vikings deep in their own territory with a punt that rolled to the 10-yard line. Three plays later, with Inglemoor facing a 4th-and-6, the Mavericks had an opportunity to all but seal the game.
But in the second of three pivotal fourth-down conversions for the Vikings, Inglemoor receiver Kincaid Schmitt hauled in a pass from Solomon and made three Meadowdale defenders miss on a 53-yard catch-and-run, moving the ball to the Mavericks 33 with two minutes to play.
Then after Inglemoor converted another fourth down, a would-be Vikings touchdown was negated by an offensive pass-interference penalty, backing Inglemoor into 2nd-and-25 from the Meadowdale 34 with 37 seconds to play.
Two plays later, Millman came down with Solomon’s desperation pass, cutting the deficit to 28-27 and sending the Vikings’ players and fans into pandemonium. Millman finished with six receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.
On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Solomon rolled right and found Quentin Moore for the go-ahead score.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Solomon passed for three pivotal fourth-down conversions in the fourth quarter, including two that kept the game-winning drive alive. The other fourth-down conversion came earlier in the final quarter, when the sophomore quarterback found Trevor Thurman on a 4th-and-6 slant for a 10-yard touchdown pass, giving Inglemoor a 21-20 lead.
Solomon completed 14 of 26 passes for 169 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also frustrated Meadowdale’s defense with his scrambling ability, rushing 10 times for 77 yards and a touchdown. He broke four runs of at least 10 yards.
MEADOWDALE’S PASSING GAME SHOWS PROMISE
A bright spot in the Mavericks’ back-and-forth loss was the performance of junior quarterback Hunter Moen and his receiving corps.
Moen, a second-year starter, completed 21 of 31 passes for 271 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
“I thought he played really, really great,” Leonard said. “There’s only three plays that I can think of that we’d like to have back. … But he played fantastic. He’s going to be a dude for us. He’s going to be everything we need him to be, and he was pretty dang good tonight.”
Junior receivers Colton Walsh and Mason Vaughn each made contested, leaping touchdown receptions on fade passes from Moen. Walsh battled through a pass-interference call for a 32-yard scoring grab early in the second quarter, cutting Inglemoor’s lead to 14-13. In the third quarter, Vaughn hauled in a tough 21-yard touchdown catch to give Meadowdale a 20-14 lead.
Then after Inglemoor regained a one-point edge with just under nine minutes to go, the Mavericks’ aerial attack struck back.
On the very next play from scrimmage, senior receiver Tyler Gibson got past Inglemoor’s defense and caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Moen, putting Meadowdale back in front. Gibson finished with seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
INGLEMOOR STYMIES MAVS’ RUN GAME
The Mavericks struggled to get anything going on the ground, managing just 17 net rushing yards on 21 attempts. Meadowdale had just two runs of longer than six yards.
“(The Vikings) have a seven-man box at all times,” Leonard said. “That’s difficult to run the ball against. … We knew we’d throw it, and we did whatever we wanted through the air tonight. … But we knew we were going to struggle to run the ball against that front.”
SEASON-OPENING BLUES CONTINUE FOR MEADOWDALE
This was the fifth consecutive season-opening loss for Meadowdale. Each of the past four years, the Mavericks lost season openers to Wesco 4A powers Monroe and Lake Stevens.
This was just Inglemoor’s fourth overall victory since 2013. The Vikings are coming off back-to-back one-win seasons, preceded by a winless 2015 campaign.
Meadowdale is coming off its first losing season in more than a decade. After graduating a bevy of offensive firepower from their historic 2016 state-semifinal team, the Mavericks suffered a rash of injuries last year during a 4-6 campaign.
Meadowdale features a young team this season that’s starting 14 juniors and one sophomore, according to Leonard.
“Our future is so bright,” Leonard said. “When you start this many young kids, you know we’re going to make mistakes. And we made a ton of them. But we’ll grow.”
Meadowdale opens Wesco 3A South play with a road game at Shorewood next Friday, followed by a contest against Lynnwood the following week. The Mavericks face defending league champion Edmonds-Woodway on Sept. 21.