Once in a while, if the timing is right, you see a football team come into its own over the course of a single game.
Lewis and Clark is undefeated (6-0) and ranked No. 7 in the state in Class 4A. The Tigers face a showdown with University today at Joe Albi Stadium.
That they sit atop the Greater Spokane League 4A standings is a product of momentum that started with a season-opening 31-14 win at Lake City.
But the coming-of-age game for LC came a week later at Albi Stadium in a 34-8 win over A.C. Davis.
“I would say that’s been our most pivotal game,” senior quarterback Michael Flaherty said. “I think our win that next week at Central Valley was huge, too, because we haven’t beaten CV in a while. But it started against Davis.
“The first game of the season is always kind of a mix-and-match game. But in the second game against Davis we really did find our identity. We worked out some kinks in our offense and we really meshed as a team.”
LC coach Dave Hughes called the team’s offensive and defensive lines the strength of the team.
“Michael has five guys in front of him that will do everything they possibly can to protect him,” he said. “If he gets knocked down there are five guys right there waiting to pick him up.”
“We have one of the better offensive lines in the GSL, and I would call it one of the best in the state,” Flaherty added. “At the start of that (Davis) game, they wanted to blitz a lot and it took a little while for us to figure that out. We got everyone working together and they did a tremendous job. You could see that with the way our passing game came together, the way our running game came together.”
You could see the confidence build throughout that game.
“Michael has always been a confident quarterback when it comes to running the football,” Hughes said. “This year he’s finding that same confidence throwing the ball.”
For Flaherty, it was about comfort in the pocket and confidence in the other 10 players on the field with him.
“That’s the cool thing,” Flaherty explained. “I look at those other 10 guys in the huddle with me and I have all the confidence in the world in them, and I know they have all the confidence in the world in me. There is nothing I would not do for those 10 guys, and I know there is nothing in the world they wouldn’t do for me.
“That’s the biggest thing we got from that game going forward. Confidence.”
Early in the game against Davis Flaherty looked rushed. The rush kept him off-balance and his feet were rarely set. As a result, when he threw the ball it often sailed high.
As he grew more confident in his line, his fundamentals settled. He set his feet and delivered the football with authority. Where he would fling the ball in the direction of his receiver early, he delivered the ball in stride as the game wore on.
“The guys up front just gave me the time to go through my reads,” he said. “They told me ‘We’ll give you the time you need.’ That was the difference.”
And the difference has carried forward.
The 31 points the Tigers scored against Lake City is the lowest point total the team has put up this season. The 34 they put up against Davis is the second lowest. They’ve scored more than 40 points in three of their last four games.
“You never expect to go out and put 30 points on the board,” Hughes said. “But our skill kids have done a great job executing, and our offensive coordinator has done an excellent job getting us ready.
“But the big thing is that we haven’t turned the ball over. We tell our kids that we want every possession to end in a kick. So far, Michael has only thrown one interception. That makes a big difference.”
“The first game at Lake City, we mis-executed a few plays and we made some mistakes,” Flaherty said. “We knew we had to correct those mistakes. When we made mistakes, when we took penalties against Davis, we just went right back and fixed it.”
The Davis game was the defining game for LC’s new attitude: Next play. Next play. Forget what just happened. Next play.
“Penalties happen to everyone,” Flaherty said. “We put ’em behind us and move on.”
Flaherty is proud of the threats he has to use. Keani Guthmueller has turned into a serious threat running the football and receiver Xavier Guillory is a threat to score any time Flaherty throws him the ball.
“The thing is, we’re all committed to getting better every week,” the quarterback said. “You have to do that in the GSL because you never know when a team is going to knock you down. You have to respect every opponent, every week.”