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Junior quarterback leads Mt. Spokane to win in first start

In his first varsity start, Mt. Spokane junior quarterback Matt Pulliam did exactly what his team needed – play smart football.

Starting in place of senior Stu Stiles, who is serving a two-game suspension after self-reporting an athletic code violation, Pulliam threw for two touchdowns, ran for one, and – most importantly – did not turn the ball over in a 28-19 Greater Spokane League win over North Central at Joe Albi Stadium on Friday night.

“It was a little nerve-wracking going in, but after I got in and settled down, it was easy,” Pulliam said after the game, noting the importance of playing mistake-free football.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead after Dakota Hipes’ 15-yard touchdown run and Pulliam’s 35-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Dillon Madlender.

“I thought Matt Pulliam played extremely well in his first varsity start,” Mt. Spokane coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I was very pleased with the way he played. We knew he was capable, and we knew we could win with him, and we did.”

James Weigel’s 18-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter put North Central on the board, but Pulliam took a quarterback keeper 11 yards to build the lead back to 14 at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, Weigel caught a 29-yard pass up the left seam on the first play of the fourth quarter, then finished the drive with a 34-yard score. Weigel finished with 11 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns.

With a chance to make it a seven-point game, North Central kicker Austin Johnson’s extra-point attempt clanked off the right upright.

With the momentum swaying in the Indians’ favor, Mt. Spokane responded with a key drive of its own. Pulliam led the Wildcats to the 3-yard line, where they faced fourth-and-2 with 7:17 remaining. Instead of a field-goal attempt, Pulliam rolled to his left and found Madlender in the end zone for the second time, putting Mt. Spokane ahead 28-13.

North Central quarterback Quinn Zerba, who totaled 306 yards passing on 20 of 29, answered with a scoring drive that culminated in a 6-yard pass to Isaac Wicks. Trailing by nine after the score, the Indians went for the 2-point conversion but could not convert.

“That was critical,” McLaughlin said. “The big play was the stop at the goal line on the 2-point play. That gave us a little breathing room at the end there.”

After a Mt. Spokane punt, North Central mounted a charge to score yet again, but the drive was foiled when Cody Kiourkas’ fumble was recovered by Mt. Spokane with 3:26 left.