A year ago, East Valley captured a share of the Great Northern League football championship, but the Knights found themselves sitting at home for the playoffs after a tiebreaker left them the odd team out.
This year, the Knights have their postseason fortunes resting squarely on their own shoulders after dispatching Pullman 52-36 Friday at East Valley.
With a bye week before playing its final regular-season game at Deer Park, East Valley (5-3, 4-1 GNL) can wrap up the GNL title and No. 1 seed into the playoffs by beating the Stags.
East Valley took control against the Greyhounds early. Gage Burland returned the opening kick 91 yards for a touchdown.
“I caught the ball and when I looked up, there was just a big old hole right there in front of me,” Burland said. “I beat the one guy in front of me and ran.”
William Nixdorf followed with a 68-yard burst over the left side for a score six minutes later.
Pullman (5-2, 3-1) answered with its only score of the half to make it 12-6 after one quarter, but the Knights erupted with four touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 38-6 halftime lead.
Isaac Jordan celebrated his birthday with a pair of touchdown runs, from 43 and 11 yards out, and Nixdorf added a 10-yard run for a score in the quarter.
“We did a nice job taking advantage of some of their miscues in the first half,” EV coach Adam Fisher said. “Our offensive line did a nice job. Pullman likes to play a man-to-man defense and when you do that against us, if we can make a crease we can make some big plays. It’s a good thing for us we made those plays in the first half because the second half was a different story.”
Pullman scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns by David Ungerer, the first on a 5-yard run to cap the opening drive of the second half, the second on an 11-yard pass from Mason Petrino that made it 38-20 heading into the final period.
The Knights reached into their bag of tricks to put the game away. Burland took a quick pitch on a reverse, then pulled up to fire a 26-yard touchdown pass to J.T. Phelan and it was 45-20.
“My best friend and I have been working on passes all week,” Burland said. “It looked a lot better than it would have looked last week.”
Pullman got another Ungerer TD to make it 45-28, but the Greyhounds could not convert on an onside kick attempt and East Valley quickly drove 51 yards for an answering score.
Connor Ramm fired a 48-yard touchdown pass to Phelan with 3:27 left.
“I’m not happy that we let them score 30 points in the second half by any means,” Fisher said. “But I am pleased with the way our kids responded.