Post Falls and Sandpoint put on an offensive show in the first half.
The Trojans’ defense stole the show in the second half as host Post Falls outlasted the Bulldogs 49-28 in nonleague play in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
The teams displayed their considerable firepower in the opening half, combining for nine touchdowns – six on pass plays ranging between 27 and 77 yards – as the Trojans took a 35-28 lead at intermission.
Post Falls quarterback Derek Pearse connected with speedy receiver Tommy Hauser for four first-half touchdowns covering 176 yards.
The yards and points didn’t come as easily in the second half for either team, but it was Post Falls that came up with key defensive stops to turn back a Sandpoint team that has made strides from last season.
The Trojans stopped running back Gerrit Cox on fourth-and-goal from the 2 early in the fourth quarter and Post Falls marched 97 yards to go on top 42-28. Pearse finished with 348 yards passing, but it was the running of Nic McLeod and Eli Gondo that accounted for the final 70 yards of the decisive drive.
Post Falls coach Blaine Bennett named off his entire defensive staff for making adjustments that helped slow a Sandpoint offense that produced more than 300 total yards in the first half.
“The coaches took a look at some things at half and we have some young guys out there in the secondary,” Bennett said. “We have two sophomores so that first half they were like, ‘Oh my goodness.’
“Certainly, the defense played extremely well in the second half, tackled better and we were more physical.”
Sandpoint looked like it was about to even the score late in the third quarter when quarterback Jaxon Pettit hit Christian Niemela for a 34-yard gain to Post Falls’ 1, but the play was erased by a penalty.
The Bulldogs eventually punted, but they reached the Trojans’ 6 on their ensuing drive. Three running plays picked up 4 yards and Post Falls swarmed Cox on a sweep to the right side on fourth down.
Post Falls applied the heat, registering sacks to stymie Sandpoint’s last three possessions.
Hauser finished with 11 receptions for 252 yards. He raced past Sandpoint’s secondary on a few occasions and added a nifty over-the-shoulder grab to finish off another scoring drive.
“We heard about their skill coming in and we knew they were talented,” Bulldogs coach Ryan Knowles said. “Their playmakers made plays. It wasn’t bad coverage. They had some amazing catches.
“They didn’t huddle one time. I think there was 30 seconds left (on the play clock) every time they snapped the ball. Give them credit for the tempo. They put a strain on us and they’re executing at a high level.”
Sandpoint’s offense nearly kept up with the Trojans’ in the first half. Pettit passed for 235 of his 300 yards in the first two quarters and hit Niemela and Elijah Larson for touchdowns of 38 and 77 yards, respectively. Larson finished with 109 yards receiving and Niemela 102.
Gondo pounded away for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.
St. Maries 14, Kellogg 0: Eli Gibson threw for a touchdown and ran for another and the visiting Lumberjacks (1-0) downed the Wildcats (0-1) in a nonleague game, scoring twice in the last 5 minutes.