An expected game between high-powered football offenses instead became one that hinged on defense.
Visiting Lakes showed its mettle in a 24-0 victory over Mt. Spokane Saturday afternoon at Albi Stadium to advance to the State 3A semifinals against Liberty (Issaquah).
The Lancers (12-0) shut down the Wildcats (10-2), most conspicuously when they stopped Colten Williams short of the goal on the final play of the half, a run up the middle from the 3-yard line.
That play defined the day for the Wildcats, whose offense abetted the Lancers’ defensive cause by misfiring all game.
Mt. Spokane quarterback Travis Ward, perhaps a victim of too much adrenaline, often overthrew his targets and completed just 12 of 31 passes. He was intercepted twice.
When Williams fumbled on the second play following intermission at the Wildcats’ 17 – the first of two in the game – the die was cast. Division I recruit Sione Potoa’e, who later would be ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, recovered the football and Teddy Cotton scored on fourth down during a Mt. Spokane defensive stand.
“I was surprised and disappointed again – it sounds like the Ferris game – that we didn’t play better on offense,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “There were poor throws, dropped balls and those were the first two fumbles we lost all season.”
With the passing game sputtering, the Wildcats were relegated to the run. While the rushing game had its moments, thanks to good field position and a number of major Lancers penalties, it wasn’t nearly enough.
“I thought our defense was tough all day long,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said. “They made it tough for Mt. Spokane to sustain things. We made some big plays early and hung in there.”
Lakes’ offensive game came down to two first-half plays.
Running back Jordan Rivera took a direct snap on third-and-10 and, courtesy of blown Mt. Spokane defensive coverage, found Blue Kearney for 62 yards that set up Willis Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown just 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the game.
On Lakes’ next possession, Cotton burst 53 yards on a counter play to set up another 1-yard plunge.
Mt. Spokane’s defense otherwise proved stingy. The Lancers had but 75 more yards in the half.
Mt. Spokane ran 10 more first-half plays than the visitors but managed just 133 yards. Ward was 8 for 22 at intermission.
Complicating things for Mt. Spokane was the leg of Lakes kicker Delshawn Arnold, nicknamed “The Missile” for his booming kickoffs.
Neither team did much in the second half. Sophomore defensive back Mane Mamaea led the Lancers. Jay Scicilia, Jared Nielson and Dean Flager stood out for Mt. Spokane.
Lakes added a late field goal following Ward’s fumble when sacked by senior Tupou Manaea.
“We went out early and got off to a great start,” Miller said. “I was a little disappointed in our kids letting some chirping get into their heads. They lost their composure and let down a bit.”
McLaughlin lauded his defense for hanging tough after the early 14-0 deficit. But he was disappointed that the offense netted just 163 yards.
“We didn’t have our best day,” he said. “Some of it was attributable to Lakes’ defense, but it was a shame at this stage not to play as well as we’ve been playing. There were too many missed opportunities.”