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Wildcats stumble in State 3A semifinals

Size, speed of Crusaders too much to overcome

Mt. Spokane quarterback Mathew Pulliam, left, is sacked by Eastside Catholic linebacker Arend Broekmate during first-half action. (Colin Mulvany)
Mt. Spokane quarterback Mathew Pulliam, left, is sacked by Eastside Catholic linebacker Arend Broekmate during first-half action. (Colin Mulvany)

It’s a good thing Mt. Spokane scored the game’s first touchdown.

Because six touchdowns and 421 yards later, the Eastside Catholic Crusaders were on their way to an easy 42-24 win over the Wildcats in a State 3A football semifinal Saturday afternoon at Joe Albi Stadium.

The only thing we didn’t know at halftime – with the Crusaders comfortably leading 42-10 – was what the final damages would be.

As it turned out, Mt. Spokane outplayed Eastside Catholic in the second half, but it was a little too late as the Crusaders advanced.

EC (12-1) will face six-time defending champion Bellevue (13-0), which won its 67th straight game Friday in a 20-10 win over Marysville-Pilchuck.

It was a promising start by the Wildcats. On their first play, Dakota Hipes took a sweep and dashed 52 yards for a TD.

Then Mt. Spokane recovered a fumble on EC’s first play, setting up the Wildcats at the Crusaders’ 27-yard line.

But the Wildcats gave it right back.

All EC did from there was outscore Mt. Spokane 42-3 before halftime.

“That was the start we had hoped for,” Mt. Spokane coach Terry Cloer said. “But we just couldn’t maintain it. Their size wore us down and their receiver (Matt Laris) was able to get behind us a couple of times. We struggled keeping up with him.”

The Crusaders beat the Wildcats over the top behind left-handed quarterback Harley Kirsch.

Kirsch threw five TD passes, three to tight end Hunter Bryant and two to Laris. Kirsch completed 22 of 27 passes for 390 yards. Laris caught nine passes for 237 yards.

The Wildcats (10-3) tried to adjust to EC’s vertical game, but then the Crusaders gashed them with the run.

“We adjusted to that (pass over the top) a little bit and then they got us inside with the run,” Cloer said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t be in all places at all times against a spread team.”

So when the Wildcats gathered at halftime, Cloer didn’t try to muster a comeback speech.

“Our goal at halftime with a score like that is to win the second half,” Cloer said. “And we shut them out. So I’m proud of the kids.”

The Wildcats scored late in the third quarter on a Dakota Hipes 23-yard run, his second TD.

Then Mt. Spokane scored with 21 seconds to go when quarterback Matt Pulliam hit Roy Hyatt on a 21-yard pass.

Hipes led the Wildcats with 132 yards rushing on 19 attempts.

“This season was a huge success obviously coming in my first year,” Cloer said. “You set goals and to finish third, the highest place (third) by a Mead School District team ever, is a huge accomplishment. You look at the size of their kids and the size of our kids and we did it with great kids with huge hearts.”

Hyatt was proud of how his team finished.

“We didn’t even look at the scoreboard (in the second half),” he said. “We just came out and had some fun one last time with our guys. We had a better season than a lot of people thought we would.”

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