Two stout defenses clashed for a half Thursday, limiting yardage opportunities for both on the ground.
But the Mead Panthers had their way through the air in defeating Central Valley 31-12 for their sixth straight Greater Spokane League football victory and top seed to next week’s State 4A play-in series.
The triumph at Albi Stadium means the Panthers (7-2, 7-2) and district rival Mt. Spokane, top 3A seed and outright champion with a win today, will play a doubleheader at Albi next Friday.
The Panthers limited CV to 16 plays and a net 23 first-half yards while building a 17-6 lead. But it came at a cost as Wes Bailey, complaining of tingling in his fingers, was taken off the field on a stretcher, and linebacker Spencer Deniston, a handful of plays later, followed after injuring his back in the second quarter. He returned later.
The Bears (6-3, 6-2) only had a net 1 yard rushing in the opening half. Mead didn’t move the ball much better on the ground, but sophomore quarterback Andy Wetzel aired it out and found his receivers for the most part wide open for big chunks of yards. They piled up 155 yards on eight completions and two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder on a bubble screen to Bo Tully on the second play of the second period.
Central Valley parlayed a 69-yard kickoff return into a TD six hard-earned plays later, but the Bears later fumbled, then added two costly penalties as Mead kicked a field goal before intermission.
Wetzel passed for two more scores in the second half, but this time the Panthers were able to move it on the ground considerably more to control the clock. The only other CV score came on an 84-yard kickoff return.
Mead fullback Max Pounder rushed for all but one of his 84 yards in the second half and receiver Mitch Kayser accounted for 113 of Wetzel’s 212 passing yards on six receptions, including the game’s final touchdown.
“Their defensive backs played outside and we were able to get inside quickly with slants and digs,” Kayser said.
Mead coaches said that because of their run-first style, teams had been stacking defenses which opened up the passing game.
“We’ve been having a lot of success with the run, so we figured they’d try and stop it and we could pass,” head coach Sean Carty said.
Three weeks into the GSL season Mead was 1-2, losing 7-0 to Mt. Spokane in the season opener and facing an uphill battle. Today they are playoff-bound.
“You know in this league crazy things happen and you’re always hoping,” Carty said of Mead’s drive to the finish. “We’re tough on each other and as long as you believe and keep hanging in, then you have a chance.”
The loss keeps CV waiting until tonight’s outcomes between Gonzaga Prep-Lewis and Clark and Ferris-University to determine their playoff fate.
Shadle Park 34, North Central 14: There are no winless teams this year in the GSL. Taking advantage of four NC turnovers in the first 5½ minutes, the Highlanders (1-8, 1-7) took out a season’s worth of frustration with their victory over the Indians (1-7, 1-7) at Albi. Shadle led 14-0 after a quarter and Danny Rowton scored the first of two second-half touchdowns with a 28-yard run in the third quarter. Rowton rushed for 147 yards on 10 carries. The Highlanders rushed for 316 yards.
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