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Defense’s turn

Fewer points this time as Shadle tops Mt. Spokane in playoffs

The Shadle Park offense scored 36 fewer points than it did the first time around against the Mt. Spokane Wildcats.

The most important number Friday, though, was the fact that the Highlanders defense allowed 35 fewer points than it did in the league matchup.

Shadle Park scored 21 points in the decisive second quarter as the Highlanders topped Mt. Spokane 27-7 in a State 3A football playoff opener before 1,268 brave souls at Joe Albi Stadium.

The Highlanders (10-1) advance to the quarterfinals where they will travel to either Kamiakin (8-2) or Columbia River of Vancouver (8-2). They play this afternoon in Kennewick.

Shadle became the third team in school history to advance to the quarterfinals. Now it wants to become the first team to move on to the semifinals.

Both teams played much better defense than they did in Shadle’s 63-42 win early last month.

The problem for the Wildcats (8-3) was Shadle played better defense and had more than enough offense.

Mt. Spokane set a tone early that it was going to play better, at least defensively, Friday. The Wildcats forced Shadle to punt on its first two series.

The Highlanders got untracked the third time they had the ball.

Starting at its 27-yard line, Shadle struck quickly with junior quarterback Brett Rypien hitting senior utility back Alvin Welch on a 35-yard touchdown pass.

Welch, who had dropped a pass on the previous play, dragged underneath on a screen and did some nifty work up the sideline, high-stepping past a defender into the end zone on the last play of the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Shadle’s Alec Harmon recovered a squib kick that caromed off a Wildcat, giving the Highlanders possession at Mt. Spokane’s 42.

Two plays later, junior running back Michael Morris scored from 6 yards out. And for a second time, Shadle didn’t convert a 2-point try.

“The second quarter was huge for us just to get a little momentum,” Shadle coach Alan Stanfield said. “We pushed the tempo a little heavier. We knew if we could build a lead it would be tough for them to come back.”

Mt. Spokane used eight plays on its next possession to drive to Shadle’s 21, but turned the ball over on downs.

Shadle extended its lead to 19-0 when Rypien, who scrambled frequently as an adjustment to Mt. Spokane’s defense, dashed 6 yards for a score with 4:03 to go before halftime.

Mt. Spokane benefitted from a poor Shadle punt when it took over at the Highlanders 30.

Two plays later, Mt. Spokane quarterback Stu Stiles sprinted 12 yards up the gut for what would be the Wildcats’ lone TD with 1:08 left in the first half.

The problem with Mt. Spokane’s score was it left too much time on the clock for Rypien. Starting at his 20, he completed six passes and, combined with roughing the quarterback and pass interference calls, capped the drive with a 15-yard TD pass to Nick Kiourkas with 12 seconds before halftime.

Both teams would go scoreless in the second half. It’s the first time all season Shadle has gone a half without scoring.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the defense,” Stanfield said. “We were against the wind in the third quarter and we were trying to be conservative the way our defense was playing.”

Rypien, who passed for a record 613 yards the first time Shadle played Mt. Spokane, completed 23 of 39 attempts for 273 yards and two TDs Friday.

He heaped a lot of praise on the defense.

“To be honest I don’t think we played our best game offensively at all,” Rypien said. “I can’t say enough about our defense. They did a helluva job.”