Bad games. Teams have them from time to time.
The measure of a program, of a team, lies in how quickly it can turn the page, put it in the rearview mirror and get on with business.
For Central Valley that game came on a night that started with a thunder and lightning storm and ended with a 35-13 loss on its home field to Coeur d’Alene.
“To be fair, we were a little short-handed for that game,” coach Ryan Butner said. “We had our starting running back out, and we lost an offensive lineman the day before. Overall, I think we just tried to be too complex in what we were trying to do.”
Whatever the reason, the Bears were, well, off.
One of the hallmarks of the CV offense through its first four games was its passing efficiency.
“That’s been one of Matt’s strengths,” Butner said. “He’d been completing about 70% of his passes.”
At home against the Vikings, Gabbert and his receivers rarely got on the same page. Even on short passes to running backs circling out of the backfield, the lanky QB missed.
On throws that otherwise have been the Bears bread-and-butter pass plays, he was off-target at first and later receivers dropped balls. One perfect throw in the fourth quarter caromed off the receiver’s shoulder pads and fell incomplete.
“You can’t show it in a situation like that game,” Gabbert said. “When you take on a leadership role, you can’t let your frustration show.”
When it was all said and done, Gabbert completed just 10 of 31 throws for 91 yards and a touchdown, with a late interception returned for a score.
“When you play a Friday night game, it’s nice because you have the weekend to kind of digest things, reflect on it and then flush it out,” the quarterback said. “I think we all were able to do that.”
Butner said the game plan for Coeur d’Alene had gotten a little too complex – trying to anticipate what the Vikings were going to do instead of forcing them to stop what the Bears do best.
And still, the Bears are right to see that game as one that got away.
“If we had a few things go the other way, it could have been a different outcome,” Butner admitted. “If we had gone in and scored late, it’s a one-score game. Instead they get the pick-six, and it gets away from us.”
The coach put the weight of the loss on his own shoulders.
“I took the blame for that game, big time,” Butner said. “I told them that was the worst-called game I’ve ever had and I promised them that I would do a better job.”
Against Mt. Spokane last week, the plan was to simplify some things and concentrate on getting off to a fast start.
“We maneuvered a few things in practice to emphasize that,” the coach said. “We boiled things down to give Matt a few keys to look for prior to the snap and some reads immediately after the snap.”
The effort produced a 27-7 win.
Filling in for starting running back Ryan Harper, Chad Carlson carried the ball 21 times against the Wildcats, picking up 158 yards.
“Chad had a great game,” Butner said. “Not only does he carry the ball 21 times on offense, he plays every single down on defense for us at cornerback.”
Gabbert and the passing game was back on track. The senior completed 16 of 21 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
“We were all back on the same page,” Gabbert said. “My receivers had good games and everything worked.”
Gabbert said he hasn’t made any decisions about his future and is concentrating on playing football with his teammates.
“I don’t know if these are the last games of my high school football career or not,” he said. “But it is kind of hard to believe that my high school career is at this point. That puts a little more pressure on us – not on the field so much but just to enjoy these practices and this time we have together.”
Central Valley heads into this week’s game with Mead in better shape than it’s been in almost a month.
“If we’re not full strength we’re darned close,” Butner said. “We should have everybody back. I think we’re finally over our three-week battle with the flu. We picked up the bug on our trip across the state, and we’ve had a half-dozen guys fighting it every week since, it seems.
“Now we’re heading into the last three games of our regular season and we can decide how we want this season to finish up – if we want to play these games and hang it up or if we want to keep playing. We have Mead, Gonzaga Prep and our rival (University). If kids can’t get excited for these three games, I don’t know what more I can do.”
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