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Eagles fly

A muddy track at West Valley didn’t matter with the way the Eagles were soaring. Their first playoff appearance in 22 years produced a 29-0 win. Keep reading for the unedited game story for Saturday’s paper.

West Valley’s best play failed miserably but like almost everything else the Eagles did Friday night it turned out perfectly.

Sparked by Mitch Peterson’s brilliant punt return on the final play of the first half, West Valley returned to the state football playoffs for the first time in 22 years with a dominating 29-0 win over Selah in the first-round 2A game.

“It’s exciting to know we have another week,” two-way lineman Nick Brown said, looking ahead to next weekend’s game at Gonzaga Prep against the winner of today’s Colville-Othello game.

A big reason is Peterson’s 53-yard punt return when maybe the Vikings (8-3) should have just been happy to trail 7-0 and ran a play from their own 27 since there were only 4.3 seconds left in the first half when the ball was snapped.

WV coach Craig Whitney had called a timeout because “you can’t take it to the lockerroom.”

“We wanted to set up a block,” he said. “I knew with the conditions being wet, we were close to the goal line, anything can happen.”

The Eagles (11-0) didn’t get close to Evan Roberts’ punt and Peterson fielded it on the WV 47.

“We were sending everyone, trying to get a block and a quick field goal,” Peterson said. “I saw it come out and it came right to me. I was surprised.

“I kind of slipped, saw a hole and cutback. I saw a huge wall and followed my blockers.”

Peterson raced down the left sideline behind his blockers, then ran throw a tackle and stiff-armed another Vikings before coasting into the end zone.

That exemplified how well the Eagles handled the muddy, cold conditions and the Vikings didn’t.

“We talked before the game, we played five games in bad conditions,” Whitney said. “I think it helped our guys mentally because they knew they could play in these conditions.”

With the way the defense dominated that pretty much sealed the deal.

Selah had just 54 yards rushing on 23 attempts, completed just five of 18 passes for 21 yards and picked up just six first downs.

“WV played well, I don’t want to take anything away from them obviously,” Selah coach Jeff Jamieson said. “We didn’t play well offensively. We made some mistakes, conditions might have played a little bit in that but they’re a good team. We just couldn’t get in a rhythm. They’re solid.”

The defensive tone was set early, when the Eagles fumbled the ball away at their own 20 on just the third play of the game. The Vikings followed with a five-yard penalty, a one-yard run and three completions.

“After that first fumble we were in a big hole and the defense stepped up,” WV quarterback Drew Clausen said. “The defense kept giving us opportunities.”

The Eagles finally got a little something going late in the first quarter, marching from their 20 to the Selah 19 but Clausen fumbled the ball away. However, two plays later Quinn Gannon picked off Trent Douglass and Clausen redeemed himself with a 6-yard scoring pass to Peterson.

The WV defense forced a three-and-out to open the second half and then marched 57-yards for a touchdown on Krys Smith’s 3-yard run. The defense then picked up a safety when Joseph Aubert tackled a receiver in the end zone. Finally, starting with 55 seconds left in the third quarter the Eagles put together a 16-play, 96-yard drive, eating up more than nine minutes, capped by Smith’s 13-yard run.

“We wore down teams all year,” Brown said. “I was a little bit surprised, they were probably the biggest team we’ve played all year. Usually our line is the biggest.”

Clausen hit 10 of 12 passes for 94 yards and Smith had 100 yards on 13 carries as the Eagles ground out another 223 yards.

“We had some different looks we wanted to give them,” Jamieson said. “We made a couple of mistakes, a couple of penalties and all of a sudden you’re in a different down and distance and it makes it difficult. Against that front you want to be able to throw the ball, the wet ball might have hurt us a little bit there.”

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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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