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Lee: Clute gives Mt. Spokane Wildcats secret target

Kellen Clute was the starting quarterback on the freshman team at Mt. Spokane.

He didn’t figure he’d be long for that position, though. He never wanted to be the hittee, rather the hitter.

“My favorite thing about football is being able to hit people without getting into trouble,” the 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior said. “I like to be aggressive within the rules. My big dream, honestly as a freshman, was being the middle linebacker.”

Clute has a little bit of

Dick Butkus sprinkled with a dab of Mike Ditka.

When he heads to Oregon State University next fall, Clute will be a tight end. It’s a position that Ditka, the former Chicago Bears player and head coach, made famous.

“You can still hit as a tight end,” Clute said. “Especially in the offense they run.”

Clute comes from a football tree. His grandfather, Larry Lunke, was an assistant at Eastern Washington University and longtime high school head coach throughout Washington. He was inducted in 2007 in the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

Clute’s father played football at Medical Lake and briefly at Central Washington University. And the athleticism doesn’t stop there. His mother was a two-sport standout at Cheney.

Wildcats coach Mike McLaughlin tweaked his offense this year to include an H back for Clute. It’s a combined fullback/tight end spot with an emphasis on lead blocking.

He caught 10 passes for 172 yards during the regular season.

There was a point during the middle of the year when McLaughlin went away from throwing to Clute.

Clute never flinched.

“He never asked why we weren’t throwing to him. Never came up,” McLaughlin said.

When Mt. Spokane reached the posteason, McLaughlin knew it was time to put Clute back in the receiving rotation.

Clute has responded, catching five passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Wildcats’ two postseason games.

Clute was overshadowed last year by some talented seniors. It’s not that he was an afterthought, but it may have seemed that way.

“I thought he performed at an all-league caliber last year,” McLaughlin said. “But we had so much senior talent that he wasn’t rewarded for how he performed. He may have flown under the radar for some people.”

Not this season. McLaughlin added a wrinkle to the playbook going into the postseason. He sensed that opponents were keying in on some of his other weapons. So he drew up a play-action pass for Clute.

The play invites linebackers to bite hard on a possible run and allows Clute to run free up the seam behind them. It’s worked twice for wide-open touchdowns.

Clute was thankful that McLaughlin added the H back to his offense.

“For Mac to do that with me this year, it’s great,” Clute said. “His offense has been the same since he’s been here.”

The Wildcats find themselves in the same spot they were in last year. They were eliminated last year by Lakes, 24-0 in the quarterfinals.

The task will be tall Saturday when they travel to Kennewick to take on undefeated Kamiakin (11-0).

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Clute said. “They’re a good team. They’re a lot like us. They’re not super big, but they have really good athletes. If you’re out of position they make you pay.”

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