LEWISTON - Through 44 minutes, the Lewiston Bengals had the two-time defending 5A champion Coeur d'Alene Vikings on the ropes at Bengal Field.
But the final four minutes were enough for the Vikings, who rallied to beat the Bengals 26-16 in an Inland Empire League game on Friday.
Coeur d'Alene (5-2, 2-0 5A IEL) will host Lake City next Friday in a game that will determine the top two seeds out of the league for the state play-in games the following week.
"The good thing about this is we secured our seniors another home game," Coeur d'Alene coach Shawn Amos said. "We'll get to host no matter what in the play-in game."
The bad thing - the Vikings committed five turnovers on a wet Bengal Field after it rained 45 minutes before kickoff.
"We need to play better next week," Amos said. "And the kids know that too. We can't put the ball on the ground that many times (seven total) - or throw interceptions. It was just a mess tonight."
Lewiston (3-3, 0-2) travels to Post Falls next Friday in a game that will determine the No. 3 and 4 seeds in the league.
The Bengals opened the game by driving inside the Viking red zone - only to have a Drew Morton pass intercepted by Jackson Carlson at the 15-yard line and returned 85 yards for a touchdown.
"I was blitzing and saw the running back leak out," said Carlson, who also intercepted a pass to seal the game. "He threw it to me and we got a big gain."
"He gave us momentum that we didn't take advantage of," said Amos of the interception return.
Lewiston gained the momentum into the half, outscoring the Vikings 13-0 in the second quarter to take a 13-6 advantage.
"Lewiston just played a lot better than we did in the first half," Amos said. "We got the win, but it's a hollow feeling because it feels like they deserved to win."
Coeur d'Alene tied the game late in the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Gunnar Amos to Addison Johnson.
Lewiston's Andres Nunez, who had 173 yards receiving, gave the Bengals a 16-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Coeur d'Alene regained the lead with 4:24 remaining on a 19-yard touchdown run by Gunnar Amos to take a 20-16 lead. After forcing Lewiston to turn the ball over on downs, Coeur d'Alene senior tailback Reece Mahaffy took an option 46 yards for another Viking touchdown.
"At halftime, Lewiston was playing really well, and we weren't," Coeur d'Alene quarterback Gunnar Amos said. "I thought that this wasn't going to end well for us if we didn't fix it. This was the first time I've ever been in a game like this where I had to lead us down for a game-winning drive. And it will only benefit me being in a game like this."
Junior Chase Blakley had five catches for 64 yards for Coeur d'Alene.
"I think Gunnar reflected our entire team tonight," Coach Amos said. "He didn't play well in the first half, but made plays in the second. It's not very satisfying, but we found a way to win - and I guess we'll have to live with it."
Melton had completed 13 of 17 passes for 174 yards and also ran for 62 before leaving after being hit in the third quarter. He did not return, leaving third-string quarterback Kade Woods to finish the game.
"We're down to our third quarterback now," said Lewiston coach Shawn Nilsson, who lost starter Cole Zacha in the Bengals second game to a leg injury. "It's makes it tough, but I'm proud of Kade (Woods) and how he stepped up. We had opportunities in the second half, but just couldn't finish them off. I'm proud of the kids and they're starting to buy into the system we're trying to teach them, but we're still a long way from playing at the level we want to tonight. Our kids played their rear ends off tonight - and that's a pretty good football team in Coeur d'Alene."
Coeur d'Alene 6 0 7 13 - 26
Lewiston 0 13 0 3 - 16
Cd'A - Jackson Carlson 85 interception return (kick failed)
Lew - Drew Morton 14 run (kick failed)
Lew - Aaron Kracke 20 pass from Morton (Andres Nunez kick)
Cd'A - Addison Johnson 11 pass from Gunnar Amos (Parker Wilson kick)
Lew - FG Nunez 25
Cd'A - Amos 19 run (Carlson kick)
Cd'A - Reece Mahaffy 46 run (kick failed)
RUSHING - Cd'A, Mahaffy 10-140, Amos 13-72, Mort 4-43, Johnson 1-(-10). Lew, Melton 14-62, Ralstin 10-28, Poxleitner 7-3, Woods 3-11.
PASSING - Cd'A, Amos 11-19-2-95. Lew, Morton 13-17-1-174, Woods 12-18-1-111.
RECEIVING - Cd'A, Blakely 5-64, Johnson 4-12, DeHaas 1-11, Mahaffy 1-8. Lew, Nunez 9-173, Kaufman-Rayner 2-17, Poxleitner 5-23, Kracke 6-59.