When a team hasn’t produced a winning season in a while, it tends to get overlooked. The Lewis and Clark football team is going a long way to get noticed this season.
Through four weeks, the Tigers are undefeated with two league wins under their belts, including a 41-39 win over Central Valley two weeks ago that served notice to the rest of the league – and perhaps the state – that Lewis and Clark (4-0, 2-0) was to be taken seriously in the Greater Spokane League 4A race.
The league title the past few seasons has gone through CV (3-1, 0-1) and Gonzaga Prep (3-1, 1-0), two teams routinely ranked in the Associated Press top 10 in State 4A. Both teams have been in the poll this season, with G-Prep sitting at No. 6 this week.
But under “others receiving votes” this week are the Tigers, just two points behind No. 10 Camas.
“It’s always great to be undefeated but really, we’ve been competitive before,” LC coach Dave Hughes said. “CV and Prep have been the best two in the GSL, and then last year we technically got third (in a tiebreaker).
“So I don’t think we were that far away. But yeah, Prep and CV have taken it to us the last two or three years.”
Senior lineman Thomas Ehring, a big part of the crew that paves the way for the Tigers’ offensive machine, likes that this team is getting some recognition.
“I’ve been starting since my sophomore year and everyone’s always underestimated us,” Ehring said. “Losing streaks, losing everything. So it’s been rough.
“This year has been huge for us, just growing up. Since my sophomore year, it’s been losing and I think at LC we’re changing the culture.”
The Tigers have a triple threat in their run-pass option offense – senior quarterback Michael Flaherty, junior running back Keani Guthmueller and senior receiver Xavier Guillory. All three were honorable mention All-GSL last season and poised to garner more postseason awards this year.
“It’s almost like a safety net,” Flaherty said of the offensive talent. “If a team wants to take away your throwing game, you have someone like Keani who really is just a tremendous athlete. I honestly think he’s one of the best athletes in the GSL. If you have someone in the backfield like that to focus on, then you have Xavier out wide you can throw it to.
“It’s really tough with those matchups. You kind of have to pick your poison. Having that makes my life a lot easier because I can just make my reads and know the ball is going to be in a good position to get good yardage and be a positive play.”
Hughes said not to sleep on the Tigers’ defense, led by returning honorable mention All-GSL linemen Curtis Bell and Dustin Burns, along with senior lineman Carson Duncan and junior linebacker Charley Avery, who sets the defense for Hughes.
“I think our defense, especially our inside six, is really good,” Hughes said. “And our secondary continues to get better. Right now people are kind of talking about us offensively, but our inside six are about as good as other teams and maybe better.”
Guillory, part of LC’s basketball team that captured third at state last season, said he and his teammates are all about putting their heads down and going to work and they don’t want to get caught up in the other stuff.
“We don’t care about rankings,” he said. “When we step on the field (against an opponent), we’re on the same field and we’re just going to play against you.”
Guillory also said the Tigers aren’t looking too far down the road, despite upcoming back-to-back games against 3A opponents Rogers this week and North Central next week, which are a combined 1-7.
“We always respect every team that we play,” he said. “We have big goals this season, but we take it one game at a time. We’re going to treat Rogers and NC just like we would treat any other team.”
“Every week we want to be 1-0,” Flaherty said. “We don’t want to get too far ahead.
“It’s a competitive league and everyone wants to win on any given night. So you have to bring your best – you can only control how you play.”
Flaherty admitted the win over CV was a measuring stick for the program.
“We knew that we were a good team and knew that CV was a good team too, so we made sure that whole week we were intense in practice and treated every rep like it was a game rep,” he said. … “It was a great game to be a part of.”
Hughes – in his ninth year at LC – said with 23 seniors this team has “grown up” together and having experience at the skill positions and both lines is key.
“In high school football, if you can have three good athletes – one at receiver, one at quarterback and one at a running back – you can spread the defense out and you can spread the ball around,” Hughes said.
“We thought that we would be pretty good offensively. Right now, we are and we hope to continue to be.”
Ehring said being close to getting ranked is a dual-edged sword.
“I think our entire team is thinking about that,” he said. “At the same time, being underestimated – especially being undefeated – is good. It keeps us humble and it kind of keeps the pressure of being undefeated away. It helps us to keep driving.
“We want our name to be at the top, even though we’re not right now. So we’re going to drive for that.”
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