If the margin of error is as tight as most think in this year’s Greater Spokane League football race, then any errors will make the margin of victory tight at well.
At least that was the case Friday night at Gonzaga Prep, where the Bullpups’ offense turned the ball over four times, the special teams muffed a kickoff and still Prep was able to hang on for a 14-10 GSL victory over University.
“We can’t do that,” said G-Prep coach Dave McKenna, his tone highlighting his disgust with the mistakes. “We’re better than that. We’re going to work on it in practice because that’s unacceptable.”
But if G-Prep’s offense was playing give away, its defense was playing take away.
Twice after the Bullpups (2-0) had handed the ball to U-Hi during a scoreless second half, senior safety Trevor Cote came up with interceptions to limit any damage.
Add in another pick by cornerback Joe Lenoue – to kill U-Hi’s most productive drive of the game – and it’s easy to see how the Pup defense held the Titans to 215 yards of total offense.
“(The offense) had our back last game,” Cote said of G-Prep’s 49-30 season-opening win over Lewis and Clark. “So it was our turn to pick them up.”
The Titans (0-2) did their heavy lifting early, when Andrew Morgan jumped on Trevor Matin’s game-opening kickoff – a high floater that hit at the G-Prep 23 and bounced back to a diving Morgan at the 25.
Four plays later quarterback Jeff Beaty, who would lead U-Hi with 67 yards on 19 carries, bulled in from 4 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
But the Bullpups’ offense was efficient in the first half, mainly because it held on to the ball.
That and it came up with two big plays. The first was a 43-yard pass from Zach Bonneau to inside receiver Tom Davis on a seam route. That set up Bonneau’s 13-yard scoring run on the next play, tying the game at 7 midway through the first quarter.
The second big play came on G-Prep’s next possession. Senior Griffin Hare took a simple handoff over left tackle, stepped out of one tackle and raced 89 yards for the score.
“He’s one of a kind,” Cote said of his best friend since first grade. “He’s the best running back on our team by far. He carries our offense.”
Hare finished the night with 166 yards on 11 carries.
The Titans responded to Hare’s run with Austin Flynn’s 54-yard kickoff return and two first downs. But they had to settle for Matin’s 28-yard field goal after having a first-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
Matin’s kick, which opened the second quarter, finished the scoring. And seemed to ignite the defenses.
Beaty was stoned on a fourth-and-1 at the G-Prep 34 midway through the second, killing one U-Hi drive.
Austin Flynn and Adrian Bonner came up with picks for the Titans to end the second and begin the third quarters, ending Prep drives.
Even when the Bullpups fumbled twice in the final quarter, the Titans, who had just 82 yards of second-half total offense, were unable to cash in.
“We practiced with some urgency on defense,” McKenna said of the week’s preparation. “They played with a little chip on their shoulder and we need to continue that.”