Lake City High football coach Van Troxel’s team had just suffered its first loss Friday when he announced to anyone within hearing distance that he couldn’t wait for practice on Monday.
“Monday’s Day One of a new season,” said Troxel after Sandpoint took advantage of a critical mental turnover with 5:50 remaining that set up a tiebreaking touchdown. The Bulldogs pulled away, 33-21, in an Inland Empire League opener before an appreciative crowd of 1,500 at Barlow Stadium.
“This is history. Monday we’re going to try to start a new streak,” added Troxel, whose team was seeking its first league victory in four years.
LC had the ball facing a fourth-and-7 from the Sandpoint 48-yard line. The T-Wolves got set at the line of scrimmage, but were going to call timeout and punt when the ball was snapped.
Sandpoint took over on downs, and the Bulldogs quickly took advantage.
Troxel sought out one of the big reasons Sandpoint won. The coach caught up with the Bulldogs streaking wide receiver Caleb Bowman, shook his hand and applauded his performance.
And what a show. Bowman caught eight passes, three for touchdowns including the game clincher with 2:10 remaining.
On his final catch, Bowman leaped between two Timberwolves and pulled down the ball despite interference. He side stepped an attempted tackle, dashing into the end zone to complete the 32-yard connection with quarterback Paul Nieman.
Sandpoint zipped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on two special plays by Bowman, who was a man among boys much of the game.
Bowman broke off a deep post for a 60-yard TD for the Bulldogs’ first TD. On the next series, Bowman hooked up with Nieman on a deep out that the speedy receiver turned into an 80-yard score. His eight receptions covered 242 yards.
“Caleb is Caleb,” Sandpoint coach Satini Puailoa said trying to find words to laud his state sprint champion for his final reception and his overall play. “He’s a 3-year starter, he’s a Pac-10 athlete. If you’ve got a gun you have to shoot it.”
Troxel thought the only team with a gun most of the game was LC. And it seemed directed at the T-Wolves toes, he said.
Still, LC did a marvelous job rebounding in the second quarter.
And the T-Wolves did it in an uncharacteristic way - through the air with big plays.
Troxel’s son, Chad, got LC untracked when he hit Aaron Cohen for a 48-yard TD at the 9:13 mark of the second period.
Sandpoint put together its best sustained drive thereafter, marching 67 yards on 14 plays and overcoming three big penalties. Nieman scored from 1 yard out on a bootleg to put the Bulldogs ahead 21-7 with 3:27 left before halftime.
But LC struck again as Troxel found Richard Novotny on a deep fade for a 58-yard pass-and-run TD.
LC received an opportunity to tie the score just before halftime when Nieman and his center botched an exchange at the Bulldogs’ 32-yard line.
But usually sure-handed LC running back Scott Bushnell fumbled and Sandpoint recovered. He fumbled again at the Sandpoint 14 to end a scoring threat midway in the third quarter.
Puailoa had special praise for his defense, which had surrendered 76 points and several hundred yards in back-to-back losses.
One particularly pleased Bulldog, senior defensive back Dave Mattingly, said his team had reason to walk off the field proud.
“They came in thinking they could beat us and get their first league win of their existence and we shut them down,” Mattingly said. “We worked hard on the run all week because it’s what got us against East Valley. They just got a couple of big plays. That’s the only reason the score was that close.”
LC (4-1) will entertain top-ranked and defending state champ Lewiston next week, while Sandpoint (3-2) travels to Coeur d’Alene.
Sandpoint 33, Lake City 21
Lake City 0 14 7 0 -21
Sandpoint 14 7 0 12 -33
S-Bowman 60 pass from Nieman (kick failed) S-Bowman 80 pass from Nieman (Burrows pass from Nieman) L-Cohen 48 pass from Troxel (Stroh kick) S-Nieman 1 run (Lindgren kick) L-Novotny 58 pass from Troxel (Stroh kick) L-Bushnell 13 run (Stroh kick) S-Jackson 5 pass from Nieman (kick failed) S-Bowman 32 pass from Nieman (pass failed)
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo