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Sankey breaks career rushing mark in win

Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey (9) stiff-arms the defense in the midst of a 20-yard scamper in the second quarter.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey (9) stiff-arms the defense in the midst of a 20-yard scamper in the second quarter. (Jesse Tinsley)

Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey vaulted to the top of the Greater Spokane League’s all-time rushing list Thursday.

Now Sankey wants to lead the Bullpups to the top of the league.

Sankey rushed for a career-high 359 yards, scored five touchdowns and broke former Central Valley standout Tyree Clowe’s career mark (3,937) as the Bullpups clinched a postseason berth with a rousing 35-21 win over the Mead Panthers before 2,097 at Albi Stadium.

Sankey raised his career yardage to 4,141 and moved within 163 of the all-time single-season record, also set by Clowe (2,318) in 1998.

“Stud,” G-Prep coach Dave McKenna said, trying to find another way to describe his 5-foot-11, 195-pound scooter. “He’s a special player. I couldn’t be more proud of him the way he carries himself. He’s very humble. He credits his (offensive) line.”

Sankey needed just 156 yards to break Clowe’s career record, and the Bullpup broke the mark on his 15th carry. He was just getting started, as he would gain another 197 on 26 more attempts.

“I’m proud of it,” Sankey said of the record. “Thanks to my linemen and coaches. It’s just a great achievement and I’ll remember this for a long time.”

The victory sets up a showdown next week between the Bullpups (7-1) and Ferris (7-0) for perhaps the league championship and top seed to the play-in games.

It appeared that G-Prep was going to make quick work of the Panthers (4-4). Sankey scored on the Bullpups’ first play from scrimmage, breaking a couple of tackles and sprinting 56 yards. He added three more TDs on runs of 10, 1 and 13 yards before halftime.

But somebody forgot to tell the Panthers the game was over.

Mead came out a different team in the third quarter. Running back Paul Miller, who caught a 13-yard TD pass in the first half, scored on runs of 6 and 2 yards as the Panthers pulled within 28-21 with 7:37 remaining.

On their next possession, the Bullpups moved to the Panthers’ 17-yard line where Mead’s defense stiffened, forcing a 33-yard field-goal attempt. But Shane Schmidlkofer’s kick was just wide with 4:03 to go.

If Mead was going to tighten things up further, it had to do so pronto. The Panthers drove to the Bullpups’ 43, but on fourth-and-4 G-Prep linebacker Stephen Ferraro intercepted a pass.

G-Prep took over at its 36. Hoping to keep as much time on the clock as possible, Mead called timeouts after the Bullpups’ first two plays.

The Bullpups faced third-and-1 at their 45. Everyone in the stadium knew who would have the ball, and sure enough Sankey broke over the left side out of the Wildcat formation and easily had the first down. The problem for Mead was he broke a couple of tackles and was off to the end zone to complete a 55-yard TD scamper with 1:21 remaining.

“I was trying to get the first down and hit the hole as fast as I can full speed ahead,” Sankey said. “I popped that one.”

McKenna believes it could have been a defining moment for an offensive line that needed to find an identity this season.

“We had to get a first down and Bishop busts it for a long one,” McKenna said.

Sankey is looking forward to playing third-ranked Ferris.

“This is a big achievement for us,” Sankey said. “We’ve just got to stay focused and take this thing as far as possible and not get complacent. We’ve got to play hard this next week.”

Miller led Mead with 132 yards on 22 attempts.

Sankey’s 359 yards eclipsed his previous best by 33.