November 20, 2009 in Sports

Transfer helped Cusick Panthers stay on top

By The Spokesman-Review

State 1B quarterfinals

Colton (9-1) vs. Cusick (10-0) at Newport, 7 p.m.: Cusick’s Panthers were unbeaten until a 36-32 loss to eventual state champion LaCrosse-Washtucna- Kahlotus in the semifinals last year. Quarterback Spencer Shanholtzer is approaching 10,000 yards of total offense for his career. Lake Quinault transfer Josiah Rhoades has rushed for 750 yards on 41 carries despite missing three games because of injury. Tyler Edwards has caught 1,000 yards worth of passes and scored 17 touchdowns. Colton back Sam Robertson has gained 2,132 yards and scored 33 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Josh Straughan has passed for 2,444 yards and 30 TDs with only two interceptions. Top receiver Steve Eacker has 42 catches for 668 yards.

Almira/Coulee-Hartline (9-1) vs. Tri-Cities Prep (7-2), Edgar Brown Stadium, Pasco, 7 p.m.: Lake Roosevelt transfer Dylan Tipps has gained some 1,250 yards and scored 19 touchdowns for the ACH Warriors. Sophomore quarterback Derek Isaak has passed for 11 TDs and run for 13. He and Cody Jess are about equal in rushing yards. Lineman Reid Ashley is a four-year starter. Daniel Hardy leads the team in tackles. The TCP Jaguars have all but one starter back. Dangerous Will Hoppes, who has thrown for 127 touchdowns, is a passing and running threat. His favorite target is Troy Redmann. Back Kevin Ratuiste gives boost to the running game.

If there were a piece needed to complete Cusick’s football puzzle, it was at running back.

The Panthers found it.

Lake Quinault transfer Josiah Rhoades completed the picture by filling the position left open by graduation. The 5-foot-7, 155-pounder helped Cusick to an unbeaten record and into the State 1B 8-man football quarterfinals.

“It was hard replacing Dustin Villegas,” Panthers coach Sonny Finley said. “(Rhoades) moved here with his dad and stepped right in.”

Unbeaten again this year, Cusick is one of four eastern Washington teams that make up one side of the state bracket and may be the top four teams in the entire classification. Two years ago Almira/Coulee-Hartline and Odessa played for the title.

“I’m biased, but I think the four best teams are on our side, and it’s a little bit of a shame they don’t get a chance at that state final thing,” ACH coach Brandon Walsh said.

Cusick hosts Southeast 1B Colton at 7 tonight in Newport. ACH’s Warriors travel to Tri-Cities Prep for a 7 p.m. game.

Rhoades leads Cusick in rushing as a complement to veteran quarterback Spencer Shanholtzer. Shanholtzer also has two lanky 6-foot-4 passing targets in Tyler Edwards and Jacob Prine.

They operate behind a huge line that averages 260 pounds and includes Joseph Andrews, Louie Bluff and 6-6, 280-pound sophomore Johnny Andrews. That’s allowed all-state lineman Kevin Villegas to concentrate mainly on defense to protect an injured hand.

“We lost four from last year but are improved mentally, and physically we’re a better team,” Finley said. “We learned from last year and grew a lot. It’s lit a fire and passion for these kids.”

Finley said Colton isn’t big but plays with great effort. He’s hoping a strong pass rush can disrupt the Wildcats’ running game and sophomore quarterback Josh Straughan.

Cusick’s size is just one of Colton coach Clark Vining’s concerns.

“I see there’s a winter storm warning for Newport Friday night,” he said.

Controlling Shanholtzer is the highest priority. Battling the Panthers’ line comes next, and weather is third.

“At this point in the season, we’re going into it doing what we’ve been doing,” Vining said.

That means giving the ball to Sam Robertson, having a line with just one 200-pound player get off the ball quickly and spreading out the field.

“I don’t know if we can stop them, but we’re hoping to contain them a bit,” Vining said.

ACH’s return is a product of contributions from Lake Roosevelt transfers, including leading rusher Dylan Tipps, coupled with the maturing of young players, four-year line starter Reid Ashley among them.

“I like to think we have a shot at this thing,” Walsh said of a team that puts run first.

They’ll face a Tri-Cities Prep team making its fourth straight state appearance behind high-powered passer Will Hoppes.

“He’s close to 11,000 yards in his career,” Walsh said. “We’ll have to do a good job of getting pressure on him and make him throw earlier than he wants to.”

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