When it comes to the “Battle of the Bell,” the competing teams expect a close, defensive struggle between bitter rivals.
Though some of the passion and pageantry were missing Friday night due to a lack of student sections because of COVID-19 protocols, the play on the field was everything they’ve come to expect.
Tough hits. Rugged yards between the tackles. Timely plays. Costly turnovers. Clutch kicks.
And the ringing of the bell in its permanent new home.
Ethan Moczulski kicked three field goals, including a 55-yarder in the third quarter, and Mt. Spokane outlasted Mead 16-9 at Union Stadium.
It was the fifth-longest field goal in Greater Spokane League history.
“We were able to make some plays and get enough points on the board,” Mt. Spokane coach Terry Cloer said. “And we finally got some field goals for ‘Chow,’ but I don’t want that many in the game.”
Mt. Spokane quarterback Kellen Flanigan completed 11 of 19 passes for 117 yards – mostly in the first half – including a 26-yard touchdown pass.
Mead was led by running back Calen Shawen, who carried 24 times for 145 yards and a score.
“It was a ‘Bell’ game,” Cloer said. “That’s what you expect when you show up. It’s a defensive battle and the lines were smashing it out all night.”
The decision to try the long field goal came as time was winding down in the third quarter, with the Wildcats facing fourth-and-7 at the Mead 38 with a four-point lead.
“He was hitting from 60 and warmups,” Cloer said of Moczulski. “He was in my ear telling me that he could hit 60, and I said, ‘Nah, if we didn’t get any yards there on third down that we were going to punt it.’ ”
“I was bugging him about it,” Moczulski said. “He was trying to punt it, so I was trying to just get the points on the board, I guess.”
After trading early punts, Mt. Spokane (4-1) benefited from a short punt to take over at the Mead 43. A seven-play drive culminated with Moczukski’s 24-yard field goal.
Shawen carried for 22 and 32 yards to put the Panthers (3-3) in the red zone before barreling into the end zone from 3 yards out. The extra point was blocked and Mead led 6-3.
Mead’s LJ Harm pinned the Wildcats on their 5 with a punt and the Panthers forced a fumble on a swing pass, giving them a first down at the 13. They couldn’t punch it in, but Harm drilled a 25-yard field goal for a 9-3 lead with just under 5 minutes left in the half.
The Wildcats got the ball late in the quarter and Aiden Prado took a short pass and slipped a couple of tackles to go 39 yards to the Mead 42.
Flanigan found a wide open Jordan Sands from the 25 in the back of the end zone, where he dragged a foot to stay inbounds, and the Wildcats went up 10-9 at intermission.
“I was just tracking the ball in the air,” Sands said. “Saw it coming down, had to get my feet in as well. Let’s go.”
Shawen had 91 yards on 12 carries for Mead before halftime.
Early in the third quarter, a muffed punt recovered by Bryson Stanger put the Wildcats at the Mead 19, but they had to settle for Moczulski’s 24-yard field goal.
Mead tried a fake punt on its next possession but the punter, Harm, was tackled before he reached the line of scrimmage and Mt. Spokane took over at the Mead 41.
The drive went nowhere, but Moczulski stepped up to drill the 55-yard field goal to put the Wildcats up 16-9.
“It was exciting,” Moczulski said. “I’ve been practicing, like, day in and day out just for that moment, pretty much. And just same kick as usual.”
Mead responded with a 12-play drive, but Jo Sonnichsen was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third-and-12 at the Mt. Spokane 30 and was forced to punt.
After a three-and-out, the Panthers got the ball back at their 35. Faced with fourth-and-3 at their 42, Shawen was stopped just short and Mt. Spokane took over on downs with 3:16 left.
The Wildcats went backward, but Mead muffed the punt and the Mt. Spokane fell on it at the Mead 17 with 1:49 left and ran out the clock.
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