Skip to main content

ROYAL CITY, Wash. - It's only fitting that come late fall, all the alfalfa hay has been bundled up in tarps for the winter.

At the same time, Royal High School football usually is wrapping up a long run in the Class 1A state playoffs.

But something unfolded Saturday that has never happened to this historic program - the nine-time 1A champions got to host a state semifinal game.

It was no easy stroll in the park for the state's top-ranked squad, either. Royal erased an early deficit to post a 35-14 victory over ninth-ranked King's.

Derek Bergeson threw for 122 yards, rushed for another 81 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns. Avery Ellis had a game-high 108 rushing yards for Royal.

Hayden Teeter threw for a game-high 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns for King's. Each team committed three turnovers.

For the first time in two years, Royal will be in the 1A title game - defending its 2019 crown.

"It's been a long two years, for sure," Ellis said.

Here are four observations from the Royal-King's game:


Traditionally this time of year, Royal is planning for a neutral-site trip to play in the 1A semifinals.

Longtime coach Wiley Allred remembers the last time that his team played at somebody else's field this late in the postseason.

"I remember we had to go to Ephrata in 1986," he said. His Knights lost, 48-14.

But with a new turf field, Royal was approved to be a semifinal host for the first time - which meant there would be a home game played after Thanksgiving.

"That was awesome," Bergeson said. "It was special for the community, the players and all the families. And since it was right after Thanksgiving, there was all kinds of family here."

Both grandstands were full - King's traveled a good share of fans, too - and members of this proud town stood along the fence line to see if Royal would take care of business.

"It's definitely the tradition to win here," Ellis said. "It is the expectation. You have to come out and win. You have to do it."


Royal got the football first Saturday - and Bergeson's first pass fell into the waiting arms of King's defensive back Maddox Boyce for a turnover.

Two minutes later, Teeter hooked up with Lucas Prendergrast on a 17-yard touchdown in the right corner to give the visitors a quick 7-0 lead - and give the home team its first deficit of the fall.

"They were solid, all the way around," Allred said. "We knew definitely up front they would be tough to move."

From then on, the combination of Royal's stellar special-teams coverage pinning the King's offense deep in its own end - and the defense keeping it there - the tide turned for Royal quickly.

Bergeson found brother Luke Bergeson on a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter - and the Royal offense was set up short fields on two short King's punts.

Derek Bergeson gave Royal the lead for good - 14-7 - on his 4-yard run up the middle with 9:45 remaining in the first half. Ellis extended it to 21-7 six minutes later with his 3-yard scoring plunge.

And after a short King's punt, all Royal had to travel was 28 yards for its final touchdown of the half - Bergeson's 4-yard scored around right end with 16.6 seconds remaining.

"You watch them all season long - all decade long - if you give them the short field or turnovers, they win," King's coach Jim Shapiro said.


Someday, when Teeter is near the end of medical school, he can think back to his senior season of football - and have a full medical understanding of the risk he took to finish his year.

After the game Saturday, Shapiro revealed that his signal caller played the final two playoff games with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

"Doctors said he could play," Shapiro said, "but the risk of dislocation and going to the emergency room was possible on every snap."

After injuring his non-throwing shoulder at the end of the team's first-round win over Zillah, Teeter led King's to a win over Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls last week - and had to endure a pounding against this physical Royal defense Saturday.

"It is torn in two different spots ... and the risk was how quickly would it pop out," Teeter said. "(The pain) wasn't fun, but I wasn't going to miss this game."

Teeter's 222 passing yards was the most Royal has given up all season.


In the WIAA record book, Royal will go play for its 10th state title next weekend in Tacoma.

But around town, it will be recognized as a shot at No. 11.

At the home stadium, a state championship banner hangs for the 2020-21 season - even though no postseason was played.

"It's been such a long stretch of nothing, and not knowing what to do ... we made it pretty special for them (last spring)," Allred said. "We took credit (for a state title) even though we didn't play for it."

Under what criteria? Well, Royal went undefeated last spring, and toppled three 4A programs along the way.

And in all the different statewide postseason polls, Royal finished No. 1 in the 1A rankings - so Allred deemed his team the state champion.

"If somebody wants to put one up for themselves, they can," Allred said. "It is disputed ... but so much was taken away from them (by COVID-19), and they did such a phenomenal job."

(Featured photo by Tommy Wolf)