It was an off-hand comment offered on the way into the stadium at Gonzaga Prep Friday night, but it was as good a clue to the way the Bullpups game with Chiawana would play out as any.
“I think the snow caught everyone off guard,” the ticket taker offered.
With the day’s snowfall swept to the side of the field and the temperature hovering just below freezing, it was a night designed to take everyone off-guard.
Everyone except Gonzaga Prep.
The Bullpups, the No. 2 seed coming out of the Greater Spokane League, turned up the heat on the No. 2 seed from the Mid-Columbia Conference early, jumping to a 21-0 lead by intermission and powering their way to a 28-7 win in the crossover playoff.
The Bullpups took the opening kick and drove 82 yards for a touchdown, with Kasey Anthony blasting in from short yardage.
The Riverhawks (7-3) threatened to do the same on their first drive, but three separate holding penalties stalled the drive at the Gonzaga Prep 37 and a short punt gave the Bullpups a first down at their own 11.
Devin Culp, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound wide receiver, took the handoff, found space behind his right tackle and broke down the sideline, cutting back at the Chiawana 35 and racing into the end zone for a 14-0 advantage with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The Riverhawks again moved the ball on their second possession. Tayden Jenkins broke free up the middle and raced toward the goal line only to be tackled from behind at the 2, and on first-and-goal he was stripped of the football and the Bullpups recovered in the end zone.
But Gonzaga Prep fumbled on its first play from its own 20 and Chiawana once again drove to the 2.
This time Prep’s Chase Cash simply took the ball away from running back Ethan Garcia.
Ten plays later the Bullpups were back in the end zone to make it 21-0.
It was a stunning start. Last year in this game, Chiawana took advantage of Gonzaga turnovers to post a 37-35 victory.
“That is a very good football team,” Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “They are always well coached and their players play hard.”
Basically, Gonzaga Prep just played harder. And smarter.
It seemed whenever Chiawana’s running game would gobble up sizeable chucks of ground, the Riverhawks would get caught holding – flagged a half-dozen times for that penalty in the first half.
Chiawana got on the scoreboard with 3:51 left in the game, punching it in from the 3.
But the Bullpups recovered the on-side kick, and with the ball on the Chiawana 49, they dialed up something the Riverhawks had not seen all game long: a reverse to Sam Lockett, who sprinted out of the Gonzaga Prep backfield untouched and raced into the end zone to make it 28-7.
“I’m just so proud of my kids and the way they played,” McKenna said. “Our defense stepped up and made plays. Those two fumble recoveries down there at the 2 were just great plays.
“I’m just glad that we get another week together – the players, the coaches, we all get to do it again next week.”
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