By RICHARD LEDFORD
Special to The Journal
Former Friday Harbor standout Tyler Hart caught the game-winning touchdown pass on the first play of overtime as the Eastern Washington Eagles defeated North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of Division I football playoffs, Dec. 11 at Cheney.
Hart had four receptions for 43 yards, including his 25-yard touchdown catch.
Playing on the nation’s only red turf field, the Eagles got off to a first quarter 14-point lead. As the red faded from the field due to a snow storm, so did the Eagles’ lead. The Bisons battled back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Down by one touchdown, the Eagles mounted a 90-yard, 10-play drive to score with 19 seconds remaining in the game.
Hart made a crucial catch for a first down on that do-or-die drive. Overtime began in overdrive as the scoring strike from Bo Levi Mitchell to Hart was on the first play in overtime as Hart streaked from his wide slot position to catch the ball at the goal line. The drama extended to the final play of the Bisons’ possession as they were at the Eagle’s goal line. The official ruled a fumble by the North Dakota State quarterback, resulting in a touchback as Zach Johnson, Hart’s roommate from Tumwater, recovered the Bisons’ fumble in the end zone. The drama remained for a few minutes as the play was under official review before the referee finally announced “the ruling on the field stands.”
The Eastern Washington Eagles will play Villanova next week-end at home in Cheney. Villanova is the defending Division I National Champion. The winner of the game will play for the national championship the following week.
— Richard Ledford is former head coach of the Friday Harbor Wolverines football team.