Woodland quarterback Adam Shoup was almost certain he had just blown the game.
His Beavers led Mark Morris by a touchdown with 2:22 remaining in their Greater St. Helens 2A League opener Friday at Longview Memorial Stadium, and had the ball at the Monarchs' 11-yard line. MM had just one time out left.
All Woodland had to do was run the ball, bleed the clock, and then prevent MM from going 90-something yards in a few seconds to secure a 21-14 victory.
Beavers coach Mark Greenleaf sent in the play call. It was a waggle play, where Shoup fakes the hand off and rolls out left. It's a pass play, but Greenleaf told Shoup to just keep the ball and run.
The senior quarterback went through the play fake, but found three Monarch defenders in his back yard. Suddenly, his mind was just as crowded as the pocket.
"They had the end coming in, and I knew it would be a tackle for a loss," Shoup said. "I just had a mental breakdown, and I tried to throw it."
First, MM linebacker Keigan Baker tipped the ball as it left Shoup's fingers. Then yet another Monarch ‘backer, Jayson Gibb, tipped it again, and eventually corralled it for an interception.
The Monarchs improbably had the ball at their 20 with a little more than two minutes remaining and a chance to tie the game.
"I just saw the ball there and just ran towards it and got it," Gibb said. "It was the only thing I thought of — getting that ball."
On the next play, Monarchs quarterback Hayden Tilton bought time by rolling to his right, and then hit Dax McCoy for a 57-yard gain to the Woodland 23.
But the play didn't count. MM was flagged for holding at the line of scrimmage. The Monarchs couldn't overcome the subsequent 1st-and-20 at their 10, and turned the ball over on downs after gaining just three yards.
Shoup took a knee three times — no passing this time — and the Beavers beat the Monarchs for the first time since 2007. It was MM's first GSHL 2A loss since 2008 — a span of nine league games — and Woodland's first league victory since 2009.
"Once I saw that pass, it was just like, ‘NO!'" Shoup said. "But I looked back and saw the flag on them, and just the most stress off my shoulders I've ever felt in my life."
That one, almost deadly miscue was the only one in what was a career day for Shoup. The 6-foot-0 senior ran 11 times for 57 yards and completed 16 of 26 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, with only the tipped interception marring his statline.
Shoup operated much of the night in a clean pocket that seemed as tranquil as a day spa. With seemingly endless time to work through his reads, Shoup spread the ball around. He found 6-4 receiver Nick Fuller five times for 101 yards and a score, all in the first half, and targeted Hunter Huddleston five times for 45 yards and a touchdown.
"He's just grown up," said MM coach Shawn Perkins. "Last year, he didn't have a ton of confidence. This year he has a ton of confidence back there. That's the difference for them right there."
When the Monarchs (2-3, 0-1 in league) keyed on the pass to start the second half, Woodland (2-3, 1-0) turned to the run and Cy Whitmire, who churned out 102 yards and a score on 13 carries.
Some of the Beavers' success may have had to do with MM missing two of its best linemen - Brandon Rauth (concussion) and Skyloer Rukkila (ankle) - due to injury. But Perkins said that's no excuse.
"I think it hurt us in a lot of different ways," Perkins said. "We made a ton of mental mistakes out there that we shouldn't be making at all, it doesn't matter what level we're at."
Frankly, the Monarchs were lucky the final score wasn't worse. MM coughed the ball up on its first two drives with an interception and a fumble, and both times Woodland drove into the red zone in response.
Red-zone efficiency had been a problem for the Beavers in their three nonleague losses, however, and it plagued them again. Woodland missed a field goal on its first drive and dropped a touchdown pass before turning the ball over on downs, turning two MM turnovers into zero points.
The Beavers led only 7-0 at the half.
"In all honesty, we should have been up 17-0," Greenleaf said.
Woodland scored on the opening drive of the second half with a Whitmire run to make it 14-0, but suddenly MM decided to make it a game.
Hiro Kusakabe returned the resulting kickoff 77 yards to the Beavers' 7, and the Monarchs got on the board two plays later on a Hayden Tapani touchdown run.
When Woodland scored again in the fourth quarter to go up 21-7, Mark Morris answered with an eight-play, 77-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass from Tilton to Nikko Asbell to make it 21-14.
Shoup threw the interception on the next drive, a play that in 2010 would have caused a downward spiral and a heartbreaking Beavers loss.
But the calendar says 2011. This is not the Woodland team that went 0-9 last year.
"If we think we can do it, we can do it," Shoup said. "Last year, everybody had the mindset that we're going to go in and we're going to lose. This game, we came in and thought we can compete with these guys."
Now they'll compete for a league title.
Beavers 21, Monarchs 14
Woodland 0 7 7 7 - 21
Mark Morris 0 0 7 7 - 14
W - Nick Fuller 21 pass from Adam Shoup (Malthe Barrett kick)
W - Cy Whitmire 1 run (Barrett kick)
M - Hayden Tapani 6 run (Riley Johnston kick)
W - Hunter Huddleston 9 pass from Shoup (Barrett kick)
M - Nikko Asbell 7 pass from Hayden Tilton (Johnston kick)