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Pieces align for Wildcats

Mt. Spokane’s destiny was essentially out of its hands nearly a month earlier. All it took was for some outside pieces to fall into place the final three weeks for the Wildcats to be outright Greater Spokane League football champions for the second time.

“Obviously, our expectations were to challenge for the title,” said coach Mike McLaughlin.

Unlike last year, he said, everything aligned properly. An example came in the season’s first game, he said, when Mead’s GSL interception leader, Bo Tully, inexplicably dropped a pick that likely would have gone for a score. The Wildcats pulled out a 7-0 victory.

“It was a big first game,” said McLaughlin. “And it turned out bigger than we thought at the time. I don’t think anyone believed it was the potential championship game and that’s what it came down to.”

Following a loss to Ferris, the Wildcats ran the table during a season that included the first shutout over their rival, first win over Lewis and Clark, decisive victories over its 3A foes, and first eight-win season.

Mt. Spokane won its division in 2002 and beat the other division winner, Gonzaga Prep, for the league title en route to its first (4A) state appearance.

When this year’s seniors were freshman, hopes for success were high.

“They were undefeated and a lot played their sophomore year on varsity out of necessity,” said McLaughlin.

Eight of those players go both ways and backups have developed for depth, he said. The Wildcats outscored their last three foes 161-7.

“You either get better or worse and I was concerned after the last three weeks we weren’t as good as against Lewis and Clark,” McLaughlin said. “Right now, I think we’re better.”

Crazy year redux

As taut and unpredictable as was this Greater Spokane League, tonight’s 6 o’clock three-team mini-game playoff at Albi Stadium certainly is not without precedent. In 1994, there was a five-way tie for second place necessitating four mini games for one state berth.

“That’s what’s fun about high school football,” said Mead coach Sean Carty, whose Panthers rallied from playoff uncertainty to become the No. 1 4A playoff seed last Thursday.

He also pointed to University, which plays the winner of the Ferris-Gonzaga Prep mini game for the third state berth.

“They probably thought they were out when they left the field after losing to us last week,” he said. “Lo and behold, Lewis and Clark comes through and makes it a scramble again.”

The Tigers, by beating Ferris and Gonzaga Prep back-to-back, created the need for tonight’s series. The order was pre-determined from numbers drawn by schools prior to the season.

WV drought over

The last time West Valley won a league football championship was in 1987 as a member of the Frontier League. The long drought is over after Cheney was beaten by Deer Park.

“When we heard the news Friday night,” said coach Craig Whitney, “the kids sang songs all the way home. They were giggling like grade schoolers.”

Winning seasons have been rare at WV the past 22 years.

Whitney took the reins and oversaw re-construction. WV has gone 0-10, 3-7 (in the GSL), 5-5, 5-6, 7-3 and now 9-0 in six years. Coaches knew at the beginning of the season WV had the makings of a title contender, but given the past were loathe to admit it publicly.

“We’re now playing in a good league with a good fit for our school,” Whitney said. “It’s been a long time, but everything is good.”

Milestone record

Ferris’ Connor Halliday became the first GSL quarterback to surpass 2,000 yards passing in a single season. In so doing, he surpassed a legend.

Halliday finished the year 162 of 227 for 2,255 yards. The old mark, by Inland Northwest Hall of Fame and Super Bowl champion Mark Rypien, was 1,975. Both did it in eight games.

Rypien remains the career leader with 4,965 yards in 24 games. Halliday finished fifth, behind Mt. Spokane’s Joel Clark (4,878), Saxon Mike Pfeiffer (4,798) and Clarkston’s Jason Curtis (4,480) with 4,270, but in 19 games. The others played 24 or more. Earlier this year, he established the single-game record of 437 yards.

Soccer moves date

Tonight’s football playoff has forced the GSL to move its soccer regional qualifying matches to Wednesday at Albi. Mead and LC play for the title and two berths, following the U-Hi vs. CV game at 5 for the third spot.

•Great Northern League district play begins today with No. 5 Colville at No. 4 Deer Park and No. 6 Medical Lake at No. 3 Pullman in loser out matches at 3 p.m. Playoffs continue Thursday at league champion Cheney and second-place West Valley.