Many in the crowd of 10,202 at Joe Albi Stadium on Friday could sense it.
There was magic in the air. In the middle of it were 3A teams Shadle Park and Mt. Spokane.
They slew the 4A giants, Gonzaga Prep and Mead.
Few would have thought two 3A teams would be setting the pace through four weeks.
Long time coming
It took longer than fourth-year coach Alan Stanfield desired, but his Shadle Park football team finally arrived Friday.
Shadle’s 42-13 win over Gonzaga Prep is just the second win by a Highlanders team in eight years over a team that will most likely finish with an above .500 record.
While Greater Spokane League secretary Herb Rotchford serves all the teams in the league, he had a bigger smile than usual Friday. He was the principal at Shadle responsible for hiring Stanfield.
Rotchford emphasized that Stanfield would turn the program around. Stanfield’s biggest challenge was turning around a culture that was mired in losing.
Stanfield’s voice was shot Saturday morning. And he said he was fighting a cold. But none of that could cloud the exhilaration he was still feeling.
“It’s the first time we’ve won back-to-back games since I’ve been here,” Stanfield said.
Stanfield and his staff were preparing to meet with their players. They were going to review the video from Friday and take a first glance at their next opponent.
The Highlanders weren’t pinning their hopes of upsetting G-Prep on their offense, though the passing and running schemes more than held their own. They believed their defense could contain the Bullpups’ option.
Sure enough, the Highlanders never allowed the Bullpups to set an edge on the perimeter. Except for one long pass, Shadle never got beat by G-Prep’s speed.
“We were really confident in our defense going into the game and played like we expected to do,” Stanfield said. “Being able to make them throw when they have to throw instead of letting them choose to throw was key. It was big getting them into sizable third-down situations. We had several tackles for losses and sacks that built confidence for us as the game went on.”
Shadle also figured out what it called G-Prep’s psycho front, where the Bullpups’ down linemen don’t get in a stance but stand and move around before the ball is snapped.
“They don’t do that against anybody else,” Stanfield said. “Last year we made the mistake of slowing our tempo down against Prep. This year we decided to go fast. We were truly trying to snap the ball as fast as we could. They were successful with it against us last year. We told our (linemen) to get on their tracks and block the first guy that comes to you.”
The winner of the Mead/Mt. Spokane rivalry showdown gets to ring a bell. And boy there was some ringing going on well after the game.
For good reason. The Wildcats believed they could beat their rival but it was surprising how they did it – by not allowing a point.
Who would have thunk that Mt. Spokane would be the last undefeated team standing after four weeks?
Ferris, Mead, G-Prep and Shadle are all a game back at 3-1. And Central Valley is 2-2 and Lewis and Clark is clinging to some hope at 1-3.
No wonder the GSL is considered the toughest league in Eastern Washington and one of the toughest in the state.
“It’s exciting for the 3A teams and good for the league to have some balance,” Stanfield noted. “There are five or six teams that could win any night. You’ve got to show up every week.”
Shadle and Mt. Spokane proved that Friday.