In my 33 years of watching Greater Spokane League football, I don't think I've seen a season quite like this with six teams, maybe seven if you include champion and 3A top seed Mt. Spokane in the mix, so even. Any of the six 4A squads could have made the playoffs if not for a missed extra point here, a turnover there. So it was probably to be expected that it would end the way it did tonight with Gonzaga Prep just 12 yards away from clinching the No. 2 seed, only to be relegated to a three-team playoff for the third spot; or that University would come up one-inch away from the third playoff spot (I wasn't there, but a source told me the Titans might have been in) and now in that playoff; or that Ferris, left for dead, now has a chance in that playoff to return to state. Weird.
That begs the question: Are the teams good enough to advance in the playoffs? Once there you have to take care of business better than this league has done.
Here's my story from LC's win at G-Prep to finish the season with back-to-back victories over its rivals, the Bullpups and Saxons.
Gonzaga Prep stood poised, leading 20-14 and deep inside the red zone, to land the final blow in a typical Bullpups-Lewis and
But once more fate intervened to break another team’s heart.
The Tigers recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard-line and marched 91 yards in just under five minutes to snatch a 21-20 victory that again altered the look of this Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not Greater Spokane League season.
Bishop Sankey, who on the previous play following a Prep interception by Nick Lenoue, had burst 35 yards to LC’s 12-yard-line, coughed up the football with 5:17 remaining.
The Tigers supplemented their power running game with three clutch pass completions by sophomore Jeff Livingston, one a 30-yarder to senior Austin Ehlo that put them in business at the 5-yard-line. Four plays later, with just 25.6 seconds remaining, Ehlo snagged a slant and Taylor Dunlap pooched the winning extra point.
“I’m just happy the extra point went tonight,” said first-year coach Dave Hughes afterward. “If we’d have made them we probably would have been in the playoffs.”
A lot of coaches this year could have muttered similar “what-ifs” including the Bullpups, so crazy was and even the teams this season. Prep missed an extra point on its go-ahead touchdown early in the quarter that haunted it.
“We need to finish,” said Prep coach Dave McKenna. “We need to hang onto the football.”
The Tigers (5-4 overall, 4-4 in the GSL) did not make the playoffs, but, as runningback Levi Taylor exhorted his jubilant teammates in a post-game huddle, they ruined the seasons of both Ferris and the Bullpups with back-to-back victories, forcing the pair into a three-way playoff Tuesday for the third and final post-season playoff berth for a chance at state.
The Bullpups rode two-way heroics of Jack Wilson to leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 20-14. The speedy back would carry 8 times for 82 yards getting outside containment and scoring twice. On defense he had a major impact on keeping the Tigers rushing star
“Jack is phenomenal,” said McKenna. “He’s one of the best athletes in the league.”
He scored his first following an inauspicious start in which LC fumbled away the kickoff and there were three penalties, two on the Bullpups, in the game’s first minute. First he had an 11-yard gain on third and 10 before scoring from 8 yards.
Prep returned the favor in the second quarter, fumbling at its 15 where in two plays
But once more Ehlo came up big on a simultaneous catch call and
“I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless,” Ehlo said. “We just stuck to our team theme and I told them we were going to march 91. I didn’t care even though (Gonzaga’s) defense was kicking us all night.
“We just had to finish out our season with a bang.”
Taylor finished with 128 yards in 31 carries putting him at 1,106 for the season behind Sankey gained 171 yards on 29 attempts for a league total 1,460 (he’s at 1,703 overall) the sixth highest single season in GSL history.
And here's a look at next week's matchups both state play-in games and crossovers with the Columbia Basin Big Nine
CBBN No. 4 Southridge at GSL No. 1 Mead, Albi Stadium, Fri., 8 p.m.
CBBN No. 3 Kamiakin at GSL No. 2
GSL No. 3, Gonzaga Prep/Ferris/U-Hi at CBBN No. 2
CBBN No. 5
CBBN No. 2 Sunnyside at GSL No. 1
GSL No. 2 East Valley at CBBN No. 1 Hanford, Fran Risch Stadium Richland, Fri., 7 p.m.
CBBN No. 6
GSL No. 5 Gonzaga Prep/Ferris/U-Hi at CBBN No. 7 Eastmont, Fri., 6:30 p.m.
CBBN No. 8
GSL 3A No. 3
GSL 3A No. 4
GSL 3A No. 5 North Central at CBBN 3A No. 3, WV-Yakima, Thurs., 6 p.m.