It was overtime before any noteworthy defense was played.
When it counted most, Lewiston stopped Sandpoint in double-overtime as the defending state champion Bengals knocked off the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs, 41-34, in a wild Inland Empire League game at Barlow Stadium.
Although most of the estimated crowd of 1,500 went home disappointed, the shootout was nothing short of entertaining.
Both teams intercepted passes in the first Kansas Tiebreaker session. Lewiston had possession first in the second overtime and scored on its second play when quarterback Sennett Pierce connected with Mickey Hewitt on a 7-yard post.
Lewiston’s defense didn’t budge on Sandpoint’s first three plays. On fourth down, Sandpoint quarterback Paul Nieman found Dave Mattingly at the 2-yard line, but the Bulldog was stopped inside the 1 although his body fell into the end zone. The side judge ruled Mattingly didn’t break the plane of the end zone with the ball.
Lewiston (6-1-1 overall) finishes 3-1 in league and is playoff-bound. The question is as what seed? Sandpoint (5-3) suffered its first league loss and dropped to 2-1. Lake City is 2-1 in league, too.
Based on the Ozzie Tiebreaking formula, the Bengals would earn the top seed if Sandpoint were to defeat Post Falls next week and LC were to defeat Coeur d’Alene.
Post Falls (1-2) could earn a playoff berth and eliminate Sandpoint next week.
Lewiston did what no other team has done this season - stop Sandpoint’s stellar wide receiver Caleb Bowman. Going against continual double coverage, Bowman was held without a reception.
The strategy worked for Lewiston.
That forced Sandpoint to go with its other capable offensive weapons. Running back Kurt Berkley had a big night, rushing for 222 yards on 37 carries. He scored four touchdowns.
Nieman completed 14 of 31 passes for 189 yards, and 13 of the receptions were hauled in by Mattingly.
After taking a 24-20 lead into halftime, Sandpoint scored on its second possession in the third quarter to build the game’s biggest lead at 31-20 at the 6:47 mark.
Taking advantage of a poor punt and the ball at the Lewiston 29, Sandpoint scored in six plays when Berkley went in from 2 yards out for his final TD.
But the most glaring mistake in the game came when Sandpoint tried a fake punt at the Lewiston 44. The Bengals tackled Mattingly for a 4-yard loss.
Lewiston made the mistake hurt when Pierce connected with Mike Rogers for a 33-yard TD. The twopoint conversion failed, but the Bengals pulled within 31-26 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bengals put together their longest scoring drive beginning with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter. Lewiston marched 69 yards with the big play coming on third-and-goal from the Sandpoint 24. Pierce found Hewitt, who got behind the Sandpoint secondary for the go-ahead TD. The score put Lewiston ahead 34-31 with 4:30 left.
Sandpoint responded, driving to Lewiston’s 4. Bulldogs placekicker Matt Lindgren sent the game into overtime with a 20-yard field goal from a tough angle with 41 seconds remaining.
Lewiston used a balanced attack. Pierce threw for 176 yards, completing 13 of 28 passes. Running back Rick McCrery rushed 16 times for 102 yards.
“I don’t want to credit any individuals,” Lewiston coach Nick Menegas said. “I just have to give a lot of credit to the team for never giving up. We had to rally around and they (the Bulldogs) still scored plenty of points. But we answered with some big plays. This was a great high school football game.”
Although it had opportunities, Sandpoint has yet to win a big game in the past three years.
“It was two explosive teams and it took a lot to shut each other down,” Sandpoint coach Satini Puailoa said. “We had them down 31-20. The fake punt was my call and I’ll take the blame for it. They (the Bengals) made the plays when they had to.”
Lewiston 41, Sandpoint 34 (2OT)
Lewiston 7 13 6 8 0 7 - 41
Sandpoint 14 10 7 3 0 0 - 34
S-Berkley 4 run (Lindgren kick)
L-McCrery 31 run (Holder kick)
S-Berkley 1 run (Lindgren kick)
L-McCrery 14 run (Holder kick)
S-Berkley 15 run (Lindgren kick)
L-Steen 1 run (kick blocked)
S-Lindgren 45 FG
S-Berkley 2 run (Lindgren kick)
L-Rogers 33 pass from Pierce (pass failed)
L-Hewitt 24 pass from Pierce (Pierce run)
S-Lindgren 20 FG
L-Hewitt 7 pass from Pierce (Holder kick)