TACOMA, Wash. -- As the final few notes of the national anthem echoed through the Tacoma Dome, Max Browne smiled.
The 6-foot-5, 214-pound quarterback (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) was preparing to play his final high school game. He looked like he knew exactly how it would play out.
When the anthem ended, Browne slipped his helmet over his curly blonde hair and a few minutes later led a quick touchdown drive that sparked a 49-24 victory over Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep in the Class 4A state championship game.
“Our coaches told us to enjoy the moment,” the USC commit said. “This was my last game. The crowd came out on both sides. It was an awesome environment, awesome experience, just something I tried to take in.”
Browne did more than just enjoy the moment. He completed 21 of 28 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. On his first completion, a 13-yard pass to Cedric Cooper, he became the state’s career leader in passing yardage, finishing with 12,951 yards.
“It was something I talked to my dad about before the season,” Browne said, when asked about the record. “I knew I had to have a big year, but that record is the type of record you can’t win if you don’t play the games. The way you play multiple playoff games is if you have a great team -- all 14, all four years.”
While Browne was putting up big numbers in his last game, Lane Kiffin and Clay Helton -- his future coaches at USC -- watched from the sideline. Browne knew Helton planned to be there. Kiffin was a surprise.
But the quarterback didn’t have time to pay attention to what was going on off the field. His full focus was on the game.
“It was cool to see them, but tonight it was about Skyline,” Browne said. “It was a special night for us.”
Browne was always one of the first players to greet the defense with fist bumps when his teammates came off the field. As coach Mat Taylor relayed instructions for upcoming drives, he listened to his coach. But he never took his eyes off the action.
He wanted to soak up every second of his last chance to take the field with his lifelong friends.
“It's better than I ever would have imagined and to do it with these guys, guys that I’ve been best friends with, it’s awesome,” He said. “Undefeated, it’s as good as it gets.”
Growing up, Browne always wanted to be Skyline’s quarterback. He dreamed about it when his brother, Mitch, led the program to its first state title in 2000. He wondered what it would be like when he took the final few snaps of the 2009 championship game. He took the Spartans to three title games. They won the last two.
As the clock wound down Saturday, Browne held his helmet in one hand, and fist-bumped teammates and coaches with the other. His eye-black was smeared. But he still had that smile.
“This was our goal and we got it done,” he said. “It’s a special group of guys.”