The start of the Greater Spokane League football season hadn’t been kind to the Mt. Spokane Wildcats.
But that changed Thursday night in the opener of a Greater Spokane League doubleheader before 2,110 at Albi Stadium.
The Wildcats’ defense contained Cheney’s offense, forced turnovers and led the way to a 28-7 win, Mt. Spokane’s first in four league games.
In the nightcap, Mead (2-3 overall, 2-2 in the GSL) rolled over outmanned West Valley (0-5, 0-4) by the same score, despite playing its second consecutive game without All-GSL running back Skylar Jessen.
“We’ve been playing well. We’ve just played some good teams, and haven’t been able to come away with a victory,” said coach Mike McLaughlin of Mt. Spokane (2-3 overall). “The key for us has been the kids’ desire to improve, to compete. This was the best week of practice we’ve had, and that’s a testament to them.”
The first time the Blackhawks (2-3, 1-3) touched the ball, they went 83 yards on five plays and scored to go up 7-0. It was the Brett Igbinoba drive, as the senior running back carried every down, including a 53-yard ramble around left end and a 2-yard off-tackle touchdown.
Igbinoba, who came into the game with 323 yards, finished the night with 114 on 17 carries, but missed most of the game’s middle nursing a sore left calf. By the time he returned, the Mt. Spokane defenders had put it away.
They did it by forcing four turnovers: two interceptions and two fumbles.
It was the first fumble, at the Cheney 11-yard line late in the first quarter, that jump started the Mt. Spokane offense.
It took quarterback Jesse Todd three plays to guide Mt. Spokane into the end zone, the score coming on Mike Jared’s 2-yard run.
From there, the Wildcats defense gave ground grudgingly, including one stretch in which it forced six consecutive three-and-outs or turnovers by the Blackhawks.
“Our defense, for the most part, has played well all year,” McLaughlin said. “I was pleased that they were able to force some turnovers. We were fortunate to turn them into points.”
The scoring came from Todd (10 of 18 passing for 112 yards and a scoring toss to Curtis Justice) and the running tandem of Jared (17 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns) and Nick Ellis (13 for 85 and the final touchdown).
Mead 28, West Valley 7
Out of adversity came a revelation. No Jessen, no problem, as the Panthers turned Andrew DeFelice loose.
The junior quarterback, who had thrown 38 passes in the first three league games, threw 22 Thursday night, completing 14 for 243 yards, including touchdown throws of 74 yards to Andy Mattingly, 10 to Paul Senescall and 12 to Jeremy Brett.
“Our offense really hasn’t changed all that much (with Skyler out),” DeFelice said. “Eric (Regalado) is really fast too, so we’re running about as much. Tonight, I was just throwing the ball up and the receivers were going up and getting them.”
The throw to Mattingly, which came midway through the second quarter and the Panthers ahead 7-0, was perfect, and it was set up by DeFelice’s play-action fake.
After selling a handoff to Regalado, DeFelice drifted back and lofted the ball toward Mattingly in the middle of the field. The junior wide receiver gathered it in at the West Valley 40, 5 yards clear of the nearest defender and on his way to the end zone.
The fake worked because Regalado was ably filling Jessen’s role as featured back. The senior, who had not played high school football until this year, rushed 13 times for 151 yards, but will return to his starting defensive back role when Jessen returns from an ankle injury.
“There will be no running-back controversy,” said Mead coach Sean Carty, smiling. “(Regalado) actually prefers to play corner. He’s doing this for the team.”
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