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North Kitsap snaps Lynden spell, dethrones 2-time defending 2A football champions in overtime

Alex Hitchings seals Vikings' 34-28 overtime victory in state quarterfinals with defensive interception in end zone

POULSBO, Wash. - There will be a new Class 2A football champion this year, and the North Kitsap Vikings hope it is them.

The Vikings defeated the two-time defending state champion Lynden Lions, 34-28, in overtime Saturday afternoon in front of a packed North Kitsap Stadium, sending themselves to the state semifinals next weekend.

Carter Dungy scored on a 2-yard run on North Kitsap’s possession to start the extra period, but kicker Andrew Knott missed the PAT kick, giving Lynden a sliver of hope to knock out the Vikings for the third year in a row.

Not this time.

Lynden quarterback Brant Heppner lofted a pass to the left corner of the end zone, only to have North Kitsap's Alex Hitchings make a leaping interception to end the game.

Even before he got up, Vikings players and fans rushed the field in celebration, as the Lions and their fans looked on, stunned. It was Hitchings’ second interception of the game - and biggest of the season.

"We’ve been saying we can’t go oh-and-three (against Lynden)," Hitchings said after the game. “That was the goal. Now we can say this is not the Lions' den, this is the Vikings here - and we’re going to Tumwater next week.

"Both teams were amazing. This was an amazing game."

Lynden’s season ended at 8-3, after the winning the past two state Class 2A titles and knocking off North Kitsap the past two seasons in the playoffs, including last year’s title game.

"It feels wonderful," said North Kitsap coach Jeff Weible of beating Lynden. "I’m so proud of the kids and the resilience they showed. We were down and came back. We missed the extra point in overtime, and the kids picked him up. It was phenomenal."

As for the final play, Weible said, "I just saw the ball, and he didn’t go for the fake. He has a knack for making big plays at the biggest time. He gave up a couple of touchdowns; he could;ve hung his head all night but he didn’t. He just went to the next play and did what he was taught to do, win the next play."

It looked like Lynden might make it three series wins in a row for a while. They led 21-14 at halftime, intercepting North Kitsap quarterback Cole Edwards three times in the first half.

Meanwhile, Heppner burned the Vikings secondary on two long touchdown passes - 62 yards to Brady Elsner and 74 yards to Dani Bowler.

But North Kitsap came back in the third quarter, blocking a punt and recovering it at the Lynden 27-yard line, setting up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Logan Sloman to tie the game at 21-21.

Lynden scored on its next drive on a Heppner 65 yard touchdown pass to Bowler to retake the lead late in the quarter.

North Kitsap then drove 77 yards on its next possession, culminating in Dungy’s 6-yard touchdown run to tie it up at 28-28. Dungy finished with 94 yards on 24 carries.

The Vikings stopped the Lions next two drives, with Hitchings intercepting Heppner on the first series, and forcing a turnover on downs with 27 seconds remaining to send it to overtime.

"It was a great game," said Lynden coach Blake Van Dalen. "Tip your hat to North Kitsap. It's been a long road for them. Now our kids will experience what they’ve experienced the past two years. This is an opportunity to show character and class in defeat. We try to show character and class in victory. Both teams played great. Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose."

North Kitsap (12-1) will next play Tumwater, a 41-10 winner over Clarkston. But like last year’s quarterfinal win over Anacortes, the Vikings wanted to celebrate at the local Denny’s before thinking about the next game.

"Can’t worry about that just yet," Hitchings said. "Tonight, we celebrate and go to Denny’s and eat some bacon."