With a showdown looming in a week with the preseason favorite, the Lewis and Clark Tigers could ill afford a second straight loss to open the season.
After some defensive breakdowns last week, the Tigers answered a challenge from their coaches with a 33-7 victory over the Mt. Spokane Wildcats in a Greater Spokane League football game Thursday at Joe Albi Stadium.
Junior running back Coleton Fitzgerald was one of at least three offensive standouts, but he was quick to give credit where credit was due.
“The key was just coming together, especially on defense,” said Fitzgerald, who rushed for a game-high 141 yards. “We didn’t let them get over the 50 (yard line) much. The defense got us going and the offense feed off of it.”
Senior wide receiver Brennan Schon, a first-team all-league pick a year ago, agreed.
“It was all about our defense,” Schon said. “They didn’t let up any points. They got us the ball and we put it in the end zone.”
The lone score by the Wildcats (1-1) came on a 96-yard kickoff return by Morgan Cordier.
“We worked hard on defense this week,” LC coach Dave Hughes said. “We believe that we will be a good defensive football team, and we almost demand it. We did a lot of tackling, we had a lot of physical practices and we challenged them mentally that they’ve got to get better. And they responded.”
Mt. Spokane finished with 111 yards total offense.
Some of the Wildcats’ limited production has to be attributed to the loss of junior quarterback Stu Stiles. On fourth-and-4, Stiles came up 2 yards short and sustained a broken collarbone. He posted a picture of the X-ray on Twitter after going to the hospital.
It’s the same collarbone Stiles broke in the Wildcats’ second game a year ago.
After its game-opening drive stalled at Mt. Spokane’s 20, LC (1-1) got things going on its second series. Following three straight incomplete passes, quarterback Andrew Black connected with Schon on a 17-yard gain to Mt. Spokane’s 1. Black sneaked in on the next play to put LC ahead 7-0 with 2:43 to go in the first period.
That’s when Cordier returned the kickoff.
LC struck quickly on its next possession, with Schon catching the first of three TD passes, a 56-yarder from Black, that put the Tigers ahead 14-7 with :41 left in the opening quarter.
Two Matt Martin field goals of 26 and 36 yards allowed LC to take a 20-7 lead into halftime.
Schon caught TD passes of 22 and 81 yards in the second half. He had six receptions for 191 yards.
He played just four downs in the opener before leaving with a neck stinger.
“They didn’t want to risk anything with my neck,” Schon said. “I was mad about last game so I let it out.”
The Tigers knew the important of getting a win with Mead up next Friday.
“You never want to be 0-2,” Hughes said. “The Panthers are a good football team. We lost to them in overtime last year. People didn’t give us much of a chance. We’ll show up next Friday night and we’ll see what happens.”