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Mead powers into State 4A quarterfinals

It was more of the same Saturday afternoon for the Mead football team.

The Panthers (10-1) leaned on their aggressive defense and used their dominating rushing attack in a 41-14 State 4A first-round win over Newport (Bellevue) in brisk, sunny conditions at Joe Albi Stadium.

The win wiped clean any bad thoughts stemming from last year’s disappointing playoff exit – a first-round loss to eventual champion Skyline.

Davian Barlow scored three rushing touchdowns and Darian Barlow racked up 94 yards on seven carries as Mead continued its success on the ground.

“With that six-man front, they’re probably the biggest, strongest men we’ve seen,” Davian Barlow said of Newport. “Our line knew they had to get after it and they got it done.”

But it was Mead’s defense that led the way – something the Panthers have done all season. Head coach Sean Carty was particularly impressed with the Panthers’ aggressiveness on defense, one that has given up just 12.5 points per game this season.

“I’m not sure I’ve seen our defense play that well for as long as I’ve been here,” Carty said.

Newport had seven fumbles, with Mead coming away with the ball three times.

Mead opened with a 5-minute, 10-play scoring drive that set the tone for the rest of the game. The drive was capped by Garrett Norris’ 19-yard touchdown gallop.

After forcing a Newport fumble, it took the Panthers just three plays – capped by Davian Barlow’s 2-yard run – to take a 14-0 lead.

The Knights responded on their ensuing possession. Isaac Dotson took advantage of blown coverage and found Brian Setijono on a 57-yard passing connection. Eric Rodan scored on a 19-yard run on the next play to cut the deficit to 14-7.

From there, it was all Mead.

Bo Hare’s interception eventually led to Davian Barlow’s 6-yard score. After another fumble – recovered by Hare – the Panthers added to their lead when Austin Stone scored from 8 yards out just before halftime.

Mead killed the clock on a long third-quarter drive and forced more turnovers in the second half to put the game away.

“It was huge,” said Danny Mattingly, who hauled in a 23-yard TD pass from quarterback Gunnar Kayser in the fourth quarter. “Losing last year to Skyline lit a fire in us. We did not want to lose and cut our season short again.”

The Panthers gained 439 yards of total offense. Kayser completed 6 of 8 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Davian Barlow aggravated an ongoing ankle injury in the fourth quarter, but it’s not expected to be a factor next week. Starting offensive and defensive lineman Jonah Jordan, however, had to be helped off the field after suffering a knee/leg injury late in the game.

Mead will take on Auburn, which beat Eastmont 20-7, in the second round next weekend.

“We just want to celebrate this and tomorrow we’ll go to work again,” Carty said.