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Mead knocks off Gonzaga Prep

Sean Carty doesn’t care if his Mead Panthers football team wins the Greater Spokane League championship outright or shares the title.

What Carty wants most is the top seed for the state play-in games.

Mead had to overcome a gutty effort by the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups as the Panthers rallied for a 27-17 win Friday at G-Prep.

The Panthers (7-1) can secure the top seed with a win against 3A top seed University (5-3) on Thursday at Joe Albi Stadium. Kickoff is at 4:45.

“We can share the league title as long as we get the No. 1 seed,” Carty said.

Mead got all it could handle from G-Prep (5-3) and more. The Bullpups were officially eliminated from the playoff race.

It was evident from the start that the Bullpups were playing with a sense of urgency – even though Mead scored on the game’s opening possession.

Mead needed just seven plays before quarterback Andy Wetzel, using a nice play-action fake, hit a wide-open tight end Danny Mattingly on a 35-yard touchdown pass.

The Bullpups pulled even when they took advantage of a Mead fumble at the Panthers’ 13-yard line. Running back Klint Wacholz got around the left side and dashed 13 yards for the TD with 5:15 to go in the quarter.

G-Prep took the first of two leads with 1 minute to go in the opening period when Tory Minkler kicked a 21-yard field goal.

After both teams exchanged possessions, Mead recovered a G-Prep fumble at the Bullpups’ 28. Three plays later, Wes Bailey took a reverse pitch and sprinted 28 yards, giving the Panthers a 14-10 lead with 4:34 to go before halftime.

“Gonzaga Prep played well,” Carty said. “We’ve never played a game against them where it wasn’t a war. I don’t know if we played our best, but we tried to play our best.”

Mead appeared to pin the Bullpups at their 9 early in the third quarter. But G-Prep used a couple of big plays to dig out of its territory, marching 11 plays before Griffin Hare plunged 2 yards to give the Bullpups their last lead at 17-14 with 5:34 to go in period.

The Panthers responded, pounding the ball down the field and took the lead for good when running back Davian Barlow scored from 1 yard out. The point-after kick hit the left upright and bounded away, leaving G-Prep trailing just 20-17 with 4:26 remaining.

G-Prep had time to answer, and the Bullpups were moving the ball when a strange thing happened on first down at midfield. Sean Murphy squirted 12 yards to Mead’s 38, but a holding call was assessed well behind the play and on the other side of the field. Instead of a first down in Panthers’ territory, G-Prep had to back up to its 39.

That essentially took the air out of the Bullpups. On fourth-and-21, Mead’s Skyler Lookabill, playing deep in the secondary, intercepted a pass and returned it to G-Prep’s 15. Two plays later, Barlow tacked on the final TD on a 19-yard run.

“Our kids played with all heart,” G-Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “Mead’s a great football team and we were right there with them.”