All the yards and the momentum seemed to be in Mead’s favor on Friday night.
But as the fourth quarter ticked away at Albi Stadium, the Panthers knew they needed one more thing to put away a stubborn Lewis and Clark team.
“I never really felt like we were out of control, it just felt like we needed to get one penalty-free drive and we might be able to wrap it up,” Mead coach Sean Carty said. “And that’s exactly what we got.”
Senior Luke Hilmes barreled in from 3 yards out with 6 minutes and 58 seconds to go to cap Mead’s 21-7 win over the Tigers in the late Greater Spokane League football game at Albi Stadium.
Mead improved to 3-0 while dropping the Tigers to 0-3.
But it wasn’t as simple as it appeared it might be after Mead took its opening possession 70 yards in 12 plays for a 7-0 lead.
“After our (first) drive, we just kind of lost our edge a little bit,” Mead senior quarterback Matt Wetzel said. “I don’t know why.”
“Our offense wasn’t doing too good … but we locked down on defense, and that’s what held us in the game,” said Hilmes, who also capped the first long drive with a 1-yard TD run.
Hilmes rushed for 98 yards and senior Braden Barranco added 77, but the Panthers couldn’t put away the Tigers despite a 22-8 advantage in first downs.
“We overcame bad drives by coming back and having great drives and playing some great defense, but (penalties) got us into trouble,” Carty said. “And the heart of the Tigers got us in trouble.”
Barranco’s 19-yard TD run midway through the second quarter gave Mead a 14-0 lead. The quick 52-yard drive included Wetzel’s first complete pass of the game.
“We want to have that stingy defense and put up 35 points per game,” said Wetzel, who finished 5 for 12 for 101 yards. “Third game of the season, we have some work to do, for sure.”
The Tigers, held to one first down to that point, mixed runs and passes to march 73 yards in nine plays and snap the shutout before halftime. Junior Taylor Duncan’s 10-yard TD run cut Mead’s lead to 14-7.
The scoreless third quarter included an LC turnover on a fumble, shanked punts on both sides and a 30-yard field-goal attempt by Mead’s Conair Shaffer that missed the mark.
Although LC had three fourth-quarter drives, two ended on interceptions by senior Garrett Norris and junior Daniel Munoz.
“It never felt like our defense was going to give up the tying touchdown …” Carty said.