Five seconds into the fourth quarter, the Central Valley Bears took a 24-7 lead.
Game over, right? The North Central Indians didn’t think so.
The Bears held off a frenetic North Central rally 24-19 in a Greater Spokane League football game Thursday at Joe Albi Stadium.
In a game in which both teams played a combined 17 players on both sides of the line of scrimmage, CV (3-1) survived this game of attrition.
And it didn’t hurt that CV finally got off to a quality start.
CV took the opening kickoff and put together a time-consuming drive, marching 65 yards in 14 plays. On his third sneak attempt, quarterback Scott Hilpert scored from a yard out.
That was key in coach Rick Giampietri’s mind, as well as his players’, especially considering the Bears went into the game ranked last in offense.
“We tried to start off the game well,” senior running back/safety Brandon McClung said. “The last couple of games we’ve had really slow starts. We had some nice runs, and the linemen did a really nice job.”
NC (1-3) finished with an advantage of more than 100 yards compared with CV, but the Bears kept the Indians out of the end zone when it counted most.
Central Valley took a 17-7 lead in the third quarter when senior place-kicker Austin Rehkow booted a 52-yard field goals, breaking the GSL record for most field goals in a career (19), set 23 years ago by former CV kicker Mike Hollis, who later played in the NFL.
Then McClung picked off a pass and returned it 28 yards to NC’s 5-yard line. Two plays later, McClung plunged in from a yard out to put the Bears ahead 24-7 with 11:55 remaining.
NC quarterback Jake Hoffman threw a 16-yard TD pass to Jimmy Weigel with 8:59 to go and put together a final drive that he capped off with a 22-yard TD scramble with 8 seconds remaining.
“It looked like it was going to be over,” Giampietri said. “And I think our kids felt so, too. But Hoffman didn’t. He came back at us. He’s a competitor.”
Hoffman completed 18 of 33 attempts for 256 yards and rushed for 93.
“I’m really proud of my boys,” NC coach Brian Gardner said. “We’ve got to get the mentality that this is a ballgame. I tried to tell them that at halftime. They came back and fought.”
In the first half, NC got to CV’s 7-yard line on its second possession, but quarterback Quinn Zerba, unaware of the pressure coming from his back side, fumbled and Bears linebacker Hayden Wolrehammer recovered to stop the scoring threat. The hit from the backside knocked Zerba out of the game, but he was standing along the sideline in the fourth quarter.
Grayson Sykes led CV in rushing with 141 yards on 18 carries. McClung had 57 yards on 14 attempts.