The Chiawana defensive unit, always a feisty and stubborn group, has prided itself in allowing very few points or yards this high school football season.
But the Riverhawks had never faced anyone like quarterback Clay Millen.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pound junior dominated for visiting Mount Si, throwing for 466 yards and six touchdown passes, as the Wildcats beat Chiawana 46-21 in a first-round WIAA Class 4A state football playoff game at Edgar Brown Stadium.
It wasn’t as if the Chiawana defense wasn’t playing badly.
The Riverhawks got some pressure on Millen, sacking him eight times.
And the Chiawana secondary did a good job of staying with their receivers.
But Millen was incredibly accurate with his throws.
If his guy had just a 2-foot window to catch a pass, it was there. If the receiver needed the ball to his side away from his defender, it was there.
“Clay throws with great timing,” said his coach, Charlie Kinnune. “He throws his receivers open. They may not be open when he throws it. But he knows where they’re going to be, and when the ball arrives, they are open. And let’s not forget he’s extremely accurate.”
Millen entered the game with a 69 percent completion percentage. Chiawana coach Steve Graff was impressed.
“Our guys played their receivers close,” said Graff. “Just not close enough. He’s pretty good. It’s nothing that we didn’t see on film.”
It helps that Millen also comes from strong quarterbacking genes. His father, Hugh, was a QB at the University of Washington and played in the NFL for a few teams.
His older brother, Cale, was Mount Si’s quarterback last year and is now the backup at the University of Oregon.
Things looked hopeful at first for Chiawana.
The Wildcats spotted the Riverhawks an early 7-0 lead. Millen had led Mount Si’s offense on its opening drive down to the Chiawana 1.
But when Millen connected with Kevin Corder, Riverhawks DB Preston Vine punched the ball out of his hands. Chiawana’s Marvell Cooks was there to catch it for an interception.
It marked the first time Millen had been picked off all season.
The Chiawana offense marched 75 yards in seven plays — keyed by Gabe Schilz’s 48-yard run. QB JP Zamora found Dion Lee for a 5-yard TD pass.
It all went downhill from there.
Mount Si picked up a safety when the Riverhawks — backed up to their own 1 on their next series — failed to get the ball out of the end zone on a Schilz run.
The Wildcats ended up scoring on their next four series: Millen with TD passes of 11, 10 and 16 yards.
Kicker Colby Ramsey finished the scoring with a 28-yard field goal, and before anyone could blink the Wildcats had a 25-7 halftime lead.
Mount Si got the ball to open the third quarter, and Chiawana needed to start the half out with a stop.
It didn’t happen.
Millen drove the Wildcats 69 yards on nine plays, capping it with a 19-yard TD strike to Brayden Holt for a 32-7 lead.
“We watched film of Chiawana,” said Millen. “They have a great defense. All week long, we practiced really well. Our offensive line did awesome, and our receivers played great.”
That put the game away completely.
“I told our guys at halftime, we needed to go out in the third quarter and get a stop,” said Graff. “It didn’t happen.”
That second-quarter explosion also took the Riverhawks out of their normal offensive game plan, which is usually run the ball to chew up clock time and keep the football out of the opponent’s hands.
Instead, Chiawana was forced to throw the ball, and it proved ineffective.
No. 11-seeded Mount Si will play No. 3 Lake Stevens in a state quarterfinal game next weekend, while Chiawana’s season ends with a 9-2 record.
Holt was Millen’s top receiver, catching 11 passes for 163 yards and four TDs.
Schilz finished with 77 yards rushing on five carries for Chiawana, while Caleb Alvarez caught three passes for 45 yards.