NEWPORT – Spencer Shanholtzer surpassed a rare milestone Friday night with a gem of a game.
The Cusick quarterback ran for five touchdowns to key the Panthers to a 54-26 victory over the Colton Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the State 1B playoffs. While the individual game was impressive, probably more memorable for Shanholtzer is the short screen pass he threw in the first quarter that put the senior over the 10,000-yard mark for total yards in his career.
“It was a big personal goal for me, but the big thing right now is the team,” said Shanholtzer, who rushed for 216 yards and passed for 192 and one TD. “We want to make it to Tacoma. That is our main goal.
“I’m glad I reached (the milestone), but the season won’t mean as much to me if we don’t win a state championship.”
With Friday’s win, Cusick – the top-ranked team in the state with a 12-0 record – moves a step closer to Shanholtzer’s wish as the Panthers advance to the semifinals for the second straight season. Cusick plays Tri-Cities Prep at Pasco with the date and time to be determined.
Shanholtzer ran for two of his TDs and had his one scoring pass in the first half as Cusick opened up a 34-12 lead. Colton (9-2) struggled to move the ball on offense but managed to score on two kickoff returns.
The Wildcats used a pair of 30-yard passes from QB Josh Straughn to score 27 seconds into the third quarter and pull within two TDs. Colton then stopped Cusick on its next possession, but two straight fumbles by the Wildcats led to scoring drives by Cusick, putting the game out of reach.
“You just can’t make mistakes against a team of that quality,” Wildcats head coach Clark Vining said. “We made mistakes, and they made us pay for it.”
The Panthers were helped by a defense that consistently harassed Straughn in the backfield. Straughn was sacked seven times and threw one interception.
Cusick also managed to hold all-league running back Sam Robertson to 80 yards – 45 of which came on a run in the last minute of the game – on 15 carries.
“Not too many people talk about our defense, with Spencer Shanholtzer at quarterback – a lot of the focus is on our offense,” said Cusick head coach Sonny Finley, whose team held Colton to 152 yards. “Our defense is a special talent. We have 10 or 11 guys that can roll in and roll out and go 110 percent.
“We spend a lot of time on defense and in eight-man football not many teams play defense. That’s what sets us above everybody else.”