It looked to be a rebuilding year for the Shadle Park Highlanders football team. After all, they lost 18 starters from last year’s playoff team, including their entire offensive backfield.
Now it looks as if they were just setting a trap for the rest of the Greater Spokane League.
Shadle improved to 2-0 in league play (and 3-0 overall) with a 41-20 defeat of North Side rival North Central (0-3, 0-2) at Albi Stadium before 2,850 Thursday night.
The game opened with Shadle’s Justin Oliveri finding a small seam, blasting through it and outracing the Indians’ coverage team to return the opening kickoff 86 yards for a score.
It ended with reserve running back Andrew McCanna gaining 13 yards as time ran out.
In between, the Highlanders ran for 195 more yards, most on those on trap plays by their undersized offensive line which includes a 5-foot, 8-inch guard, a 5-9 center and a 5-10 tackle.
“We played really hard on the line, on both sides of the ball,” Shadle coach Mark Hester said. “We’re not as big as people think we are, but our backs run hard and we spread the wealth.”
The recipient of most of the traps was running back Mike Guske, a 5-9, 180-pound senior.
“In practice we stress hitting the hole quickly,” Guske said, “and we try to get off the ball before the defense. I look for the first open hole and hit it.”
Guske, who showed his quickness from the first carry – a 14-yard burst through a hole opened by a trap block – finished with 154 yards on 24 carries, including two first-half scoring runs. But he wasn’t alone.
The other running back, junior Branden Hughes, added 52 yards (including a 1-yard touchdown) on eight carries. Quarterback Clay Scribner, like Guske a senior and starting this year for the first time, had 56 yards on seven carries, including a 13-yard score.
“It’s no secret to the rest of the league that our quarterback can run,” Hester said.
It’s also no secret that NC’s Shane Thomas can run as well. The senior carried the offensive load for the Indians with 21 carries for 138 yards and one pass reception for 43 yards.
But he didn’t find the end zone. Indians quarterback Greg Conley supplied two of the scores with tosses of 15 yards to David Butler and 32 yards to Eddie Depaolo.
It was Depaolo who also scored NC’s last TD.
That came when Scott Harris blocked a punt and Depaolo scooped it at the Shadle 35-yard line and raced in untouched. The play, with 7 minutes, 39 seconds left, brought NC to within two TDs, but less than 2 minutes later Shadle’s Zach Humphrey returned an interception 25 yards to cap the scoring.
“We started a little slow at the beginning of practice,” Guske said, “but we’ve been really coming together. It’s great to win against (NC). One of their players lives about three houses from me, so I think I’ll give him a hard time tonight.”
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