NOVATO -- The St. Mary's High football team built a 22-point lead then held off host and No. 1 seed San Marin-Novato for a thrilling 35-29 win Saturday in the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals.
Only when Jeff Walchli's onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds with 56 seconds left could St. Mary's (9-4) breathe a collective sigh of relief -- and begin celebrating the program's first berth in an NCS final since the Panthers lost to Foothill in the 2A East Bay championship game in 1999. That was legendary coach Dan Shaughnessy's penultimate team.
St. Mary's will face Fortuna (10-2) in the championship next Saturday at Humboldt State University. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"It feels great, it feels great, there's no other feeling like this in the world," Panthers receiver/defensive back Liam Godfrey said. "I couldn't have asked for more."
Godfrey scored three touchdowns, including one a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ian Bonde. On that play, defensive back Joseph Widny appeared to throw up his hands near midfield after the catch and that gave the speedy Godfrey enough of a lead to score easily.
Godfrey also scored from 36 yards out on an end around play on fourth down when he cleared the line and found nobody back deep. His first score came on a 10-yard pass from Bonde early in the first quarter. Godfrey finished with six catches for 164 yards plus 46 yards rushing on four carries.
San Marin (9-3) never gave up and a failed attempt on a fourth-and-goal play actually set up the Mustangs comeback. San Marin's Kyle Chernoff took a swing pass from Manny Wilkins on the play and was tackled on the 3 by Jovon Kitchen. However, Bonde fumbled the snap on first down and was tackled in the end zone by Conner Kristofors for a safety.
Following the free kick, the Mustangs went 63 yards in four plays with Jason Draper running it in from the 7. Suddenly, it was 28-15. San Marin pulled to 28-22 midway through the fourth quarter on a 14-yard keeper by Wilkins.
With two minutes, three seconds left in the game, Lorenzo Logwood finally broke free for a 55-yard touchdown to seemingly put the game on ice. The Mustangs had done a tremendous job of corralling Logwood, allowing him just 67 yards on 19 carries up to that point.
But San Marin wasn't done, marching 93 yards in five plays and scoring on another Wilkins keeper.
The Mustangs finished with 547 yards of offense, including 349 by Wilkins through the air and 163 on the ground courtesy of Chernoff. St. Mary's had 371 yards on offense.
Division IV semifinal St. Mary's 35, San Marin 29
St. Mary's 7 14 7 7-- 35
San Marin 0 6 9 14-- 29
SM -- Godfrey 10 pass from Bonde (Hernandez kick)
SAN -- Walchli 25 FG
STM -- Godfrey 36 run (Hernandez kick)
STM -- Godfrey 97 pass from Bonde (Hernandez kick)
SAN -- Walchli 34 FG
STM -- Phillip 25 pass from Bonde (Hernandez kick)
SAN -- Safety, Bonde tackled by Kristofors in end zone
SAN -- Draper 7 run (Walchli kick)
SAN -- Wilkins 14 run (Walchli kick)
STM -- Longwood 55 run (Hernandez kick)
SAN -- Wilkins 1 run (Walchli kick)
Rushing: STM -- Longwood 20-122, Godfrey 4-46, Harvey 3-6, Bonde 4-(-10), Team 3-(-15). Totals 34-149. SAN -- Chernoff 23-163, Draper 3-22, Wilkins 17-13. Totals 43-198. Passing: STM -- Bonde 11-22-0 232. SAN -- Wilkins 26-43-0 349. Receiving: STM -- Godfrey 6-164, Phillip 3-53, Pierce 1-14, Harvey 1-1. SAN -- Cerruti 8-98, Parham 5-99, Sbragia 5-77, Chernoff 5-63, Leon 3-12. Fumbles/lost: St. Mary's -- 4/0. San Marin -- 7/1. Records: St. Mary's 9-4, San Marin 9-3.