Last year crept into the minds of the Mead Panthers.
They admitted as much. In fact, Panthers coach Sean Carty thought his team could have fell prey to the doubts again at halftime Thursday.
But after watching a 20-0 lead evaporate a year ago against Ferris, Mead overcame the doubts, stunning the No. 1-ranked Saxons 35-14 in a Greater Spokane League football game Thursday at Joe Albi Stadium.
Stepping up big were a pair of juniors – linebacker Danny Mattingly, who recovered a fumble and picked off a pass deep in Ferris territory in the second half, and running back Davian Barlow, who scored four touchdowns on a tender ankle.
Ferris (6-1) has owned Mead the past six years. But the Panthers broke through, snapping the defending state champ’s 20-game winning streak.
“We just really wanted to make a statement that we’re a strong part of this league,” Mead coach Sean Carty said. “It was a gut check at halftime. You almost got a feeling when we’re up 20-0 last year that I never wanted to say ‘Here we go again’ but you know you’ve been there before and you know they’re never going to quit. Our kids realized it and stepped up.”
Mattingly’s fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter gave the Panthers (6-1) possession at the Ferris 11-yard line. Four plays later, Barlow scored from 2 yards out to give Mead a 28-14 lead.
The play that secured the victory came midway in the period when Mattingly intercepted a Drew Sharkey pass at the Saxons’ 13 and returned it to the 2. Barlow scored on the next play, extending the Panthers’ lead to 35-14 with 5:50 to go.
“It feels so great,” Mattingly said. “Civil War baby – North vs. South – and we came out on top this year. We had a great game plan coming in.”
That plan was to stick to the new Fly offense exclusively. The Panthers rushed 46 times for 233 yards, and they completed no passes. Wes Bailey led with 122 on 10 carries and Barlow added 56 on 19.
Mattingly said last year’s loss provided plenty of motivation.
“We didn’t let them get in our face at all,” Mattingly said.
The Panthers started fast. They opened a 14-0 lead, running 20 plays to the Saxons’ six in the first quarter.
But the Saxons got untracked in the second period, showing the most balance they’ve had all season.
The difference in the first half came down to a sprint – a 76-yard dash by Mead’s speedy Bailey, who appeared sealed on the sideline but broke loose and was gone. The TD put the Panthers ahead 21-7 with 5:36 remaining before halftime.
Ferris coach Jim Sharkey said turnovers were the difference.
“Too many mistakes against a very good football team,” Sharkey said. “They have speed and they broke one and they made a couple of big plays. They’re a good football team. I knew that all year.”
Barlow was all smiles afterward.
“If we wanted to win the GSL championship it went through this team,” Barlow said. “This is the team to beat in the GSL, everyone knows it. The whole thing about this week – we’re not repeating last year. If we’re up we’re staying up.”
Barlow said the Panthers respect Ferris.
“We have tremendous respect for them,” he said. “They have players everywhere. Every time I turned my head when I didn’t have the ball I was getting knocked around. They’re an amazing team but fortunately we got it done.”
Central Valley 52, Shadle Park 8: Turnovers plagued the Bears (5-2) the last two weeks, and they cleaned that up against the Highlanders (0-7) in the opener at Albi.
It was a combination of an angry pack of Bears and a Shadle team that continues to struggle in many facets.
The Bears scored seven first-half touchdowns. CV turned three interceptions into scores and were given a short field twice on two snaps over the punter’s head.
CV running backs Alex Jacot and Grayson Sykes each scored two TDs in the first half. Sykes added a third TD in the second half.