A year ago, Kellen Clute didn’t have to factor much in Mt. Spokane’s offense, deferring to other talents while concentrating on defense during a Greater Spokane League championship football season.
Thursday night the new-look Wildcats took up where they left off and Clute’s contribution at tight end helped turn the tide during a wild offense-driven 33-27 victory over Central Valley in front of 1,881 fans at Joe Albi Stadium.
Late in the first half, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Clute snatched a Carson Blumenthal pass, found an open seam and dashed 64 yards past the defenseless Bears, breaking a 13-all tie with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first half.
“It was a choice route. I’m supposed to read the linebacker and make a cut off that,” Clute said of his move. “He went outside me and I went inside and there was no help. So I outran the defense.”
Following the break, the Wildcats scored quickly for a two-touchdown lead, the difference in the outcome of a game in which teams otherwise took turns matching each other score for score.
There were only three punts in the game. Mt. Spokane’s lone boot came near game’s end in an effort to protect a six-point advantage. The only thing that stopped Mt. Spokane all night was its mistakes, two lost fumbles and an interception.
Both teams scored on first-quarter possessions and again in the second period – CV on a Ryan Nungester 64-yard reverse – when both missed extra points.
Mt. Spokane couldn’t be stopped in the third quarter while building its 13-point lead. But a lost fumble in the fourth period produced a quick CV score on Garret Sawyer’s 38-yard pass to Nungester.
The Bears had the ball in the final 1:51 and were driving with a chance to tie before time ran out. Clute had a big hand in the defensive stand.
“It was a huge win,” Clute said. “We lost 18 starters from last year and nobody thought we were going to do anything this year. We wanted to come out and prove that we’re somebody you have to come out and beat.”
There were new players at nearly every position, particularly at quarterback and the slots, where veteran Chase Naccarato moved into a feature role and gained more than 100 yards. Both the Wildcats and Bears piled up more than 400 yards of total offense in the entertaining season opener.
“I thought (Blumenthal) played well for his first start,” Wildcats coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Overall, with all the new faces, I thought (the team) played well. It’s always nice to win the first game.”
Post Falls 57, Caldwell 14: At Caldwell, Idaho, the Trojans opened the season with a win.