SANDPOINT – Post Falls football coach Jeff Hinz was quick to acknowledge how special the Trojans’ 42-39 season-opening win over the Sandpoint Bulldogs was Friday at Barlow Stadium.
Then Hinz was just as quick to praise his players, steering the conversation away from his 10-month battle with cancer.
“It’s a little bit special just with what the situation was with me a few months ago but I don’t want to talk really about that, I want to talk about my guys,” Hinz said. “We’re a young team. We made some good plays and made some mistakes. One down and five more to grow up until we hit league.”
Just as young – and arguably younger – were the Bulldogs. But they grew up measurably, especially after falling behind 14-0 early.
Sandpoint fought back to take a 19-14 lead, but an interception and a fumble on a kickoff allowed the Trojans to take a 28-19 lead into halftime.
The final statistics show that Sandpoint ran up and down the field. But it was the little miscues that cost the Bulldogs more than it was the Trojans’ play.
“We had them on the ropes several times,” Sandpoint coach Satini Puailoa said. “I really think in many ways we outplayed them. I think our kids dominated. It’s kind of where we are in this progression. We’ve got to take a team like this and we’ve got to be able to finish them off and not let them keep getting back in the game. We turned the ball over, we missed some signals and (made) mistakes on special teams.”
Both teams will grow from the opener.
One of the key mistakes Puailoa alluded to was on a double pass attempt when a receiver didn’t see the correct call that was signaled from the sideline. Trojans free safety Zach Hillman intercepted the pass.
Four plays later, quarterback Dalton Thompson found Mark Haines on a 1-yard pass for a touchdown that would give Post Falls the lead for good at 21-19 with 33 seconds to go before intermission.
The Trojans’ Richie Hauser stripped the ball on the ensuing kickoff and recovered the ball at Sandpoint’s 15-yard line.
Three plays later, Thompson found Hillman on a 6-yard TD connection, allowing Post Falls to go into halftime with the momentum.
Sandpoint got the momentum back quickly on the opening kick of the second half when Kyle Perry, guilty of the late first-half fumble, sprinted 91 yards to pull the Bulldogs within 28-26.
Post Falls had an answer for each Sandpoint score in the second half.
“It was like a track meet, holy smokes,” Hinz said. “Who would have thought it would be 42-39 coming in here. Sandpoint did a heckuva job. They’re growing up a little bit and they’re starting to turn the corner a little bit.”
Sandpoint quarterback Nate Loutzenhiser threw for 258 yards while Perry rushed for 148.
Austin Jackson led Post Falls with 99 yards rushing.
“A lot of things were there,” Puailoa said. “These kids were prepared to win this game. But we’ve got five opponents like this. We’re going to gauge our success on how we play against these guys.”