STILLWATER — Timberlake coach Brian Severin remembers well when a precocious group of eighth-graders told him four years ago that they were going to be the first state championship football team in school history.
But the truth is, the Class C state crown that the Tigers' 10 seniors delivered Saturday with a 38-16 victory over Seiling was predicted a long time before that.
"We've been saying that since we all started playing together in the third grade," said running back Johnny Ketterman following Saturday's game at Stillwater High School. "We've all been on the same team since we started playing and we always said we would do this."
In fulfilling their promise, the Tigers capped a perfect season at 14-0 and became the first team other than Shattuck to win the Class C title since 2002.
"Last year we got embarrassed by Shattuck (in the semifinals) and these kids dedicated themselves to this," Severin said. "This was the goal."
Seiling ended its season at 12-2 with both losses coming to Timberlake. Still, Seiling made a game of it Saturday.
The score was tied 16-16 with 7:01 left in the third quarter and momentum seemed to be going the way of the Wildcats. After the tying the game at 16, Seiling held Timberlake to a three-and-out and got the ball at the Timberlake 37-yard line after a Tigers punt into the wind went just 26 yards.
But Timberlake forced a quick punt and then dominated the rest of the way. Three touchdowns on its next three possessions and not allowing Seiling a single first down during that stretch gave Timberlake its first gold ball.
"It was hard not to think about the way we beat them (earlier) this season," said Ketterman. "But Seiling played better. We just took over there at the end."
Ketterman ran for a game-best 123 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run and the ensuing two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jake Bowers passed for 80 yards and a 27-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Ross and also ran for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Austin Reuss also had a long-distance TD, scooting 59 yards for a score on the Tigers' first possession of the second half.
While the title was the only goal that mattered, the Tigers would have liked a shot at ending Shattuck's run of six consecutive titles head-to-head.
"We wanted to go against Shattuck, but they lost before we could play them," said Ketterman, who ends the season with 17 touchdowns. "But, obviously, winning the championship was more important than beating Shattuck."
Seiling got a terrific showing from senior quarterback Zach McDonald, who ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns (giving him 25 for the season). However, the Tigers held the Wildcats to zero passing yards. And the three-TD surge that started in the final minute of the third quarter zapped any drama the game had built to that point.
The only other time Timberlake played for a title, it lost to Medford in 1999. However, it was pretty obvious this year's seniors were honing in on a crown after they led the Tigers to the state semifinals as sophomores and juniors.
"We've gotten close before," said Ketterman. "But we knew we wouldn't let another chance get away this time."
Considering the seniors called it in the third grade, and this was their final chance, there never really was any doubt.