Grayson Sykes calls it the Pony Express.
Whatever you call it, the junior Central Valley running back delivered the mail in crunch time Thursday.
Sykes, who starts at outside linebacker, didn’t make his first carry until 3 minutes remained in the third quarter. He went on to gain 100 yards on 11 attempts as the Bears finished off the Lewis and Clark Tigers 31-7 to earn the Greater Spokane League’s final 4A play-in berth at Joe Albi Stadium.
“We call it the Pony Express,” Sykes said of the running-back-by-committee approach this year. “It’s not who gets what play or who gets that. We do it for the team.”
CV (7-2) hits the road next week when it takes on Columbia Basin Big Nine 4A champ Chiawana (8-0) at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. It’s a rematch of a play-in opener a year ago.
The Bears were opportunistic in the first half, taking advantage of an interception and muffed kickoff coverage to open a 24-0 lead by halftime.
After the Tigers dropped a touchdown pass, CV’s Adam Chamberlin intercepted a pass tipped by defensive end Anthony Brommer, returning it 92 yards. The TD coupled with a 52-yard field goal by Austin Rehkow, put the Bears ahead 10-0 early in the second period.
On the ensuing kickoff, LC (6-3) failed to cover the kick and CV’s Jordan Tabish recovered at the Tigers’ 29-yard line. On CV’s first offensive play, quarterback Gaven Deyarmin hit a wide-open Dustin Dach for a TD.
CV scored on its final possession of the half, marching 70 yards on six plays. Fullback Alex Jacot plunged 2 yards over right guard to finish the Bears’ first-half scoring.
It appeared LC might make it a game in the second half. The Tigers scored on their first possession in the third quarter when quarterback Jeff Livingston found Brennan Schon on an 8-yard pass, pulling the Tigers within 24-7 wiith 7:09 to go in the period.
CV responded, going 69 yards on nine plays before running back Alex Jacot scored from 4 yards out for a 31-7 lead. The drive took 5 minutes, 15 seconds off the clock.
“I really have to give it all to the offensive line,” Sykes said. “They were blocking everyone and giving us those running lanes.”
CV coach Rick Giampietri thought it was a complete game.
“We were physical,” Giampietri said. “We didn’t have a good opening drive in the second half, but then we came back and stuffed it right down their throat. That was the best part of it because (LC) has a physical defense.”
Mead 37, University 22: The Panthers clinched no worse than a share of the league title.
And the Titans (5-4) made the Panthers (8-1) earn it, too, in the opener at Albi.
More important, Mead secured the GSL’s top 4A play-in seed. The Panthers did it behind junior running back Davian Barlow, who scored four touchdowns on a sore ankle.
Barlow’s final TD, a 61-yard sprint, put him over 1,000. He needed 149 going into the game and he finished with 172 on 21 carries. His first three TDs came on runs of 5, 45 and 3.
Mead will play the winner of a three-way logjam – either Davis, Wenatchee or Richland. If those teams finish in a three-way tie for the CBBN’s third seed, they’d play a tiebreaker Tuesday at Moses Lake.
Mead will play the first game of a doubleheader at Albi in the play-in games a week from today. Kickoff is at 5:30. Ferris will play Eisenhower in the second game at 8.
The same night U-Hi, the GSL’s top 3A team, will play host to Southridge of Kennewick in a play-in game.
It was all Mead in the first half behind two Barlow TDs, a 44-yard TD pass from Andy Wetzel to Danny Mattingly and a 51-yard field goal from Marc David.
Something woke up the Titans in the second half. A 20-yard TD run by Zach Bruce and a 28-yard TD pass from Conner Johnson to Austin Flynn allowed U-Hi to pull within 23-15 with 11:43 to go in the fourth quarter.
And U-Hi recovered the ensuing onside kick. But Mead’s defense stopped the Titans, and the Panthers put the game away when Barlow broke off his final TD scamper.
Johnson, who moved to second all-time for single-season passing last week, needed 267 yards to move past leader Connor Halliday (Ferris). But Johnson fell 41 yards short, completing 21 of 38 for 226 yards.
Bruce finished with 135 yards on 23 carries.