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Saturday, November 30, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Class A Semifinal / Toledo 20, Meridian 19 -- Late In Game, Third Time's A Score -- Toledo Reaches State-Championship Game

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

TACOMA - Twice Kyle Wallace stretched the football over the goal line in the waning seconds of last night's Class A semifinal game between Toledo and Meridian.

Twice the officials looked down at him but didn't raise their arms.

"I leaned over, but they wouldn't give it," the Toledo running back said. "I guess we just wanted to make it more spectacular."

Thirty-three seconds remained when the 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior took a pitchout on fourth-and-goal from the Meridian one. Two Trojan defenders attacked him unblocked. But Wallace ducked inside and dived into the end zone to give eighth-ranked Toledo a 20-19 victory over No. 5 Meridian and a spot in next Saturday's state-title game.

"I didn't see anyone," Wallace said. "I knew somebody hit me but I had a little extra effort left.

"I saw that white line and I knew I was going to get across it."

For much of the second half it didn't look like the Indians would even approach the Meridian goal line. Toledo (12-1) had been outplayed by Meridian quarterback Jeb Kratzig and the rest of the undefeated Trojans. Sixty of the Indians' 167 total yards had come on the last-ditch drive that gave them first-and-goal on the Meridian one. But on three straight plays they were denied. Denied. Denied.

"I was scared," Jose Caywood, Toledo's 6-4, 305-pound senior center, said. "I was praying to God and I knew that the line had to get low and explode."

They did. Barely. And with Toledo freshman running back Travis Wilson on his knees praying on the Indians sideline, Kratzig's final pass dropped harmlessly to the artificial turf.

"We worked so hard to make it this far . . ." Toledo senior defensive end Matt Ball said. "We didn't want to lose."

Though Ball and fellow defensive lineman Nathan Strutzenberg pressured Kratzig all game, the 6-1, 165-pound senior threw for 174 yards in the first quarter and 214 in the first half as Meridian totaled 359 yards for the game. His 13-yard run on the Trojans' first possession of the second half had given Meridian (11-1) a 19-14 lead.

The Trojans' lead would have been greater if not for two big plays by Thad Lingenfelter. When the Indians' junior running back walked slowly to the Toledo sideline four minutes into the first quarter, he was out of breath and his brow dripped with sweat as he sprayed his face with water.

The short break was well-deserved. Lingenfelter had just scored on a 50-yard halfback pass and a 74-yard kickoff return in a 2-minute, 7-second span. He was the Toledo offense until the last drive.

"This is the first time we've ever been in the Dome and we wanted to show everybody we're for real," he said.

It took until the last minute, but they did.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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