It had a state playoff feel for 2½ quarters before the Ferris Saxons scored three unanswered touchdowns to pull away from defending Greater Spokane League champion Mt. Spokane for a 35-14 win in a battle of football unbeatens before 3,773 at Albi Stadium on Friday night.
Chase Naccarato returned the opening kick of the second half 94 yards to set up Mt. Spokane’s tying touchdown. But it was all Saxons thereafter.
On the Saxons’ ensuing possession, Mt. Spokane was called for pass interference on third and long – a penalty that didn’t please Wildcats coach Mike McLaughlin. It gave Ferris an automatic first down and 11 plays later fullback Drew Sharkey lunged 1 yard for a TD to give the Saxons the lead for good at 21-14 with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Saxons junior quarterback Ben Goodwin engineered a handful of sustained drives. He threw two TD passes and rushed for two scores, finishing with 139 yards passing and 56 rushing.
“They (the Wildcats) made some plays, but we really responded to adversity,” Goodwin said. “That really shows the character of this team. That’s what is special about it. We’re so tight together. Somebody makes a bad play and we come and pick them up.”
McLaughlin thought the turning point was the interference call on the Saxons’ go-ahead drive.
“The penalty on the interference was huge,” McLaughlin said. “The turnaround kind of killed our momentum. It was our mistakes coupled with Ferris’ defensive play.”
The Saxons’ defense has yielded about 150 yards per game, and Friday was no different. Ferris limited the potent Wildcats to 169 yards.
“Our defense is the reason we won the game,” Goodwin said. “Our defense has been playing phenomenal for six weeks straight. They work harder than anybody. They’re a great group. They’re a bunch of brothers out there working hard for us.”
Ferris (6-0) opened a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Goodwin and a 60-yard inside screen pass from Goodwin to Riley Stockton.
Mt. Spokane (5-1) finally put together a drive late in the second quarter. Quarterback Carson Blumenthal capped a 12-play series by sneaking in from a yard out, pulling the Wildcats within 14-7 with 4:22 remaining before halftime.
Then Naccarato’s big return set up the Wildcats’ tying TD to open the second half.
The Saxons’ defense shut down the Wildcats from that point on, though.
“Coming into the year we figured we’d have to have a lot of long drives and play great defense,” Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said. “I think it paid off tonight. We didn’t give them the huge plays. They almost broke some bubble screens on us, but I thought we played smart and didn’t give up leverage. Our defense played really intelligent.”
Sharkey believes both teams will benefit from the game in the long run.
“That’s a good, good football team that I think can make some noise (in the 3A) state playoffs,” Sharkey said of the Wildcats. “I was just pleased to get out of here with a win. The game was a lot closer than the score indicated. It’s fun to be in a game like that. I think it’s going to help us down the road and I think it will help them down the road, too.”
McLaughlin believes his team will get much mileage from the loss.
“We battled back to tie it up,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll learn from this. We’ve got a lot of football left.”
Mead 37, Rogers 0: Senior running back Mike Smith rushed for four touchdowns as the Panthers (4-2) overwhelmed the Pirates (0-6).
Smith scored on runs of 11, 3, 56 and 9 yards. He finished with 127 on 12 carries.
Paul Miller was responsible for the other TD as he got loose for a 59 yard scamper.
Ryan Malmoe rounded out the scoring by kicking a 37-yard field goal with 9:39 to go in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore running back Luke Rogers led the Pirates, picking up 61 yards on 22 carries.
University 39, North Central 24: In an offensive slugfest, the Titans rode the back of running back Jory Zettle.
Zettle rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries as U-Hi (2-4) took a big step toward securing the second 3A state playoff berth.
Quarterback Zac Hill led the Indians (2-4), completing 16 of 37 passes for 206 yards and three TDs.