If anyone was worried about Mead coming out flat after a tough loss to Coeur d’Alene last week, or perhaps was concerned the Panthers would overlook Lewis and Clark in the Greater Spokane League opener, he would have been sorely mistaken.
Mead scored early, often, on the ground and through the air and easily handled the Tigers 34-10 at Albi Stadium on Thursday.
Mead rolled up 424 total yards while limiting LC to 253, after the Tigers showed signs of life early before being overwhelmed.
“I just felt like we were more focused this week in practice,” Mead quarterback Ryan Blair said. “All our guys just kind of knew that after a tough loss we had to come back and just bounce back in GSL play. I mean, we had to come out and win. This was huge.”
“I thought we played really well,” Mead coach Benji Sonnichsen said. “You know, I think the first quarter our defense came in and nailed ’em. I was really impressed with how tough our guys played.”
Blair finished 16 of 26 for 192 yards with three touchdown passes for the Panthers (2-1, 1-0). Caleb Shawen rushed nine times for 122 yards and a score, and Evan Wiesrma hauled in four catches for 84 yards and two TDs.
The win sets up a big showdown for Mead next week with rival Mt. Spokane – ranked No. 4 in the state in 3A – in the “Battle of the Bell.” Lewis and Clark has a week to lick its wounds before it faces Central Valley.
“We talked about this all the time,” Sonnichsen said. “All these GSL games are tough to get a win, and we take every single one of them super serious.”
LC (1-2, 0-1) was led by quarterback Jace Parbon with 74 yards rushing and 115 through the air. GSL 2018 leading rusher Keani Guthmueller made his first start of the season for the Tigers and rushed 14 times for 50 yards.
Mead held LC to a three-and-out on the opening drive then marched right down the field with gains of 21 and 17 yards, setting the Panthers up with first-and-goal at the 9. On third down, Blair was forced from the pocket and scrambled to the right pylon for the game’s first score.
LC put a couple of first downs together, but Guthmueller was leveled at midfield and coughed it up.
Mead picked up four consecutive first downs on four plays. On third-and-goal from the 5, Shawen took a draw play, bounced off a couple of tacklers into the end zone for a 13-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
“We got some good lanes for him and just the way that he cuts on turf – he’s a pretty dang good back,” Sonnichsen said of Shawen. “You know, he’s a coach’s kid. He knows what he’s doing.”
After trading punts, Parbon hooked up with Josh Bewick on a 41-yard gain down to the Mead 30. Guthmueller picked up 15 on a swing pass, but the drive stalled and the Tigers settled for a 24-yard field goal by Mitchell Simpson.
On the next drive, Blair found Wiersma for 23 yards and Shawen gained 25 on a draw play. At first-and-10 at the LC 20, Blair threaded a needle between two defenders with a dart to Kolby Blackler in the back of the end zone to increase the Panthers’ lead to 20-3.
“I just knew that my guy Blackler, he’s tall at 6-3, just throw it up to the back of the end zone,” Blair said. “I know he’s gonna come down with it.”
“(Blair) didn’t have to go that way,” Sonnichsen said of the play. “He chose to, and you saw him purposely put some touch on that ball. That was a pretty big-time throw.”
Mead’s defense held LC to a three-and-out, burning a pair of timeouts in the process, forcing the Tigers to punt it back with 1:16 left in the half. A short punt put the Panthers at the LC 47.
On the next play a busted coverage allowed Wiersma to go downfield alone, and Blair found him wide open with the home run ball and a 27-3 lead with 59 seconds left.
Blair finished the first half 10 of 16 for 164 yards and two TDs.
Since Mead won the toss and deferred to the second half, the Panthers walked right up the field with Shawen picking up chunks of yardage. The drive culminated with a 1-yard slant from Blair to Wiersma to go up 34-3.
After a Mead missed filed goal, the Tigers put on their most impressive drive of the contest, with Parbon busting up the middle for a 43-yard scoring run late in the third quarter.
East Valley 47, North Central 28: Henry Stevens threw three touchdown passes and rushed for 93 yards and a score to lead the Knights (1-2) over the Indians (0-3) at Albi Stadium. East Valley ended a 14-game losing streak that stretched back to 2017.
Stevens finished 11 of 20 for 163 yards, while Zach Honegger added 78 yards on the ground with two TDs.
Honegger had touchdown runs of 5 and 8 yards in the second quarter as the Knights built a 21-7 lead at intermission. EV marched the second-half kick 63 yards over 12 plays for a Stevens 4-yard TD run and 28-7 lead.
Stevens found Bodie Bedow on 18- and 25-yard slants for touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Kade Garvey rushed 17 times for 198 yards with three touchdowns for the Indians.
Deer Park 34, Newport 7: Matthew Jorgensen rushed for 267 yards with two touchdowns and the Stags (3-0, 1-0) beat the visiting Grizzlies (2-1, 0-1) in the league opener for both teams. Jorgensen had TD runs of 80 and 47 yards as Deer Park built a 31-0 lead at the half.