There’s no love lost when Mead and Mt. Spokane square off, and the proof is in the stinginess of the defenses the past couple of years.
The Panthers entered the Battle for the Bell on rivalry Friday ranked second stingiest in Greater Spokane League football. They were facing the top-ranked offense in the Wildcats.
But though Mt. Spokane’s defense was ranked near the bottom, both gave ground grudgingly in the first half of a grinder at Joe Albi Stadium.
Most of an audience of 7,937 was still in attendance for the Albi nightcap and witnessed what lately has been a defense-first struggle. Throw in penalties and mistakes and all the teams could generate between them was three points for a half.
But in the second half, Mt. Spokane used a simple formula in its 13-3 victory: Simply snap it to the quarterback and let him run.
Carson Blumenthal, who rushed for 191 yards on 28 carries, 126 of those yards in the second half, sparked a comeback that kept the Wildcats (4-0) unbeaten and sharing first place in the GSL. The Panthers (2-2) fell two games back.
Blumenthal scored both touchdowns in the second half and afterward admitted he was a tad exhausted.
“A little bit, but I’m more excited,” he said of Mt. Spokane’s second straight win over its rival. “The plan was to get me 25 carries and I think I had a little more than that. Obviously, the passing was not working.”
The first half belonged mainly to Mead, which made good on one field goal try and was driving midway through the second period before fumbling inside the 5-yard-line.
Mt. Spokane’s opportunistic defense held tough until Blumenthal fueled a 69-yard TD drive after intermission and another late in the third quarter that culminated with a score on the first play of the final period.
In Blumenthal’s opinion, the defense was the difference in the game.
“It didn’t look like it in the beginning of the game,” Mt. Spokane coach Mike McLaughlin said. “At halftime I reminded the kids of what they’ve done all year and that is to compete.”
Rather than pass out of Mt. Spokane’s spread offense, he opted to control the football and take time off the clock. Even though he was disappointed that the Wildcats’ offense wasn’t particularly sharp – “Give the Mead defense credit,” he said – he was pleased with the effort.
“We do what we have to do,” Blumenthal said of Mt. Spokane’s 4-0 start.
North Central 42, Shadle Park 18: Special-teams mistakes plagued the Indians (2-2) early. Two botched punt snaps led to two of Shadle Park’s three second-quarter TDs and an 18-14 halftime lead. And a penalty called on the opposite side of the field negated Jake Hoffman’s 94-yard kickoff score. But turnabout was fair play as a bad Shadle (0-4) punt snap in the third quarter gave NC the lead back courtesy of three missed point-after attempts. Thereafter, Indians quarterback Zac Hill dazzled and the victors pulled away. Hill completed 10 of 12 second-half passes for three touchdowns, including a 77-yarder to Jake Degon and 60-yarder to Hoffman. Hill shook off two early-game interceptions and finished huge with 365 yards through the air and five TDs. On his last three carries, Forest Cuthbert gained 160 yards rushing, one a 91-yard scoring burst. Backup Shadle quarterback Levi McBournie threw all three touchdowns, two to Brandon Atkinson, who made brilliant catches in traffic.