The Mead football team’s offense played as if it needed to get to the sidelines as quickly as possible Thursday.
The Panthers needed just nine plays and 3 minutes and 14 seconds to score four touchdowns as Mead held off the Central Valley Bears 28-16 in a key Greater Spokane League game at Joe Albi Stadium.
Mead (6-1) stayed in the chase for one of the league’s two 4A play-in berths. CV (5-2) saw its playoff hopes suffer a big blow.
“It was a night-and-day game for us,” Mead coach Sean Carty said. “We played really well at times and then at times we kind of gave up the ghost here and there.”
While it may not have been the cleanest game of the season for the Panthers, they played well enough when it counted most.
On its second play in the first quarter, junior running back Luke Hilmes dashed 73 yards for a touchdown.
Mead didn’t score again until midway in the second period, and it needed just two plays when senior quarterback Gunnar Kayser hit senior wide receiver Darian Barlow on a deep post. Barlow hauled in the pass in stride and zipped to the end zone to complete the 73-yard score.
CV’s lone first-half score came on a 31-yard Austin Rehkow field goal seconds before the teams went into halftime.
The play was set up on a well-executed hook-and-ladder play where junior quarterback Adam Chamberlain threw a 9-yard pass to Rehkow, who pitched the ball back to senior running back Brandon McClung, who went 34 yards to set up the field-goal try.
CV probably should have scored on its series before Mead’s second TD, but a fumble at Mead’s 18-yard line was recovered by the Panthers’ Langston Ward.
Mead took control in the third quarter with its final two TDs. The first came on a 61-yard run by Hilmes and the second on an 81-yard scamper by senior slotback Austin Stone.
Stone’s TD extended Mead’s lead to 28-3 with 4:47 to go in the third quarter.
CV fought back, though. A 4-yard TD run by McClung pulled the Bears within 28-10 just seconds into the fourth quarter.
Then after forcing Mead to punt, CV scored again when McClung threw a 24-yard halfback pass to Rehkow for a TD. McClung, who took off like he was going to run a sweep, just got rid of the ball as a defender closed on him. The two-point conversion failed, pulling CV within the final margin.
Moments later, Mead sophomore A.J. Layton recovered a second onside kick.
Hilmes finished with a game-high 221 yards on 15 carries – the third straight game he’s gone over 100 yards filling in for injured senior starter Davian Barlow (ankle sprain). Stone added 131 on seven attempts.
Late in the fourth, though, Hilmes took a hard hit and felt a little woozy. Afterward, Hilmes said he felt fine and expected to play next week.
Davian Barlow also hopes to return next week when the Panthers play Rogers.
“Anybody who has a loss right now is in the playoffs for their lives,” Carty said. “CV has been fighting that way for the whole season. Rick (Giampietri, CV coach) and his crew had a great plan. Those guys are always good for a trick play or two, but they really had the chicanery tonight.”
Kayser thought a couple of mistakes kept Mead from seizing control earlier.
“We made a few mistakes in the first half,” Kayser said. “That kind of got me worried but I knew in the second half we were going to come out strong. Carty gave us a good talk in the locker room at halftime. Scoring the two touchdowns in the third quarter was a big momentum shift. If we hadn’t done that the game could have gone a different way.”
Chamberlain led CV with 95 yards rushing and 105 passing.