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Sports >  High school sports

Gonzaga Prep defense comes up with 3 first-half interceptions in crossover win over Chiawana

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 5, 2021

The big question coming in to the District 8 4A crossover between Gonzaga Prep and Chiawana was whether the vaunted Bullpups defense would contain Riverhawks dual-threat quarterback JP Zamora.

Asked and answered.

The Bullpups, Greater Spokane League champs and rated No. 6 by the WIAA, picked of Zamora three times in the first half, Ryan McKenna had an 80-yard touchdown run and two TD passes and G-Prep beat visiting Chiawana 34-14 to advance to the round of 16 at state.

G-Prep (10-0) scored on five of its first six possessions overlapping halftime.

McKenna finished with 131 yards on 18 carries. He went 6-of-8 passing for 132 yards.

Nick Bankey scored twice, on a 27-yard pass and 24-yard run, and had 52 yards rushing and 75 yards receiving on three catches for the Bullpups. Bo Howell had a 9-yard touchdown run and 21-yard TD catch.

Zamora, who is headed to UCLA as a preferred walk-on after decommitting from Utah earlier in the fall, finished 9 of 17 for 75 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He added 78 yards and a TD rushing.

“He’s a really, really talented athlete and there’s a great rivalry between the two schools,” G-Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “They’re a good football team and our kids mustered and I’m so proud of them the way they rallied and came out on top.”

“Our defense played great,” Ryan McKenna said. “(Chiawana) has been great offensively all year and to hold them to what we did is unbelievable. I’m so proud of our defense and I’m just excited to keep moving on.”

Chiawana (5-5), the third-place finisher in the Mid-Columbia Conference, picked up a couple of first downs on its first series. But three straight incompletions at the Bullpups 42 should have turned it over on downs – but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Riverhawks a first down.

It would cost the Bullpups. On third-and-6 from the 12, Zamora scrambled to his right then avoided tacklers to gallop into the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.

“They came out and scored that first touchdown on us after a long drive, so everybody was kind of down,” defensive end Kaz Melzer said. “But we came back and responded well and it was just about everybody doing their jobs.”

On its first drive, G-Prep picked up 4 and 5 yards at a time on interior runs, then McKenna hit the corner for a 17-yard gain. After an encroachment penalty, McKenna pulled up and hit a wide-open Bankey for a 27-yard TD pass to tie it up.

The Bullpups forced Chiawana to punt and Zamora’s kick went into the end zone. On the first play, McKenna went off tackle, then turned on the jets and went 80 yards for the score and a 14-7 lead.

Asked what he saw on the play, McKenna replied, “Green. I didn’t have to do anything. O-line made it look easy.”

On the next drive, G-Prep’s Junus McGew picked off Zamora on a fly pattern. G-Prep couldn’t move it though and turned to punt. McKenna’s rugby-style punt was muffed by Chiawana and the Bullpups set up shop at the Riverhawks’ 16.

Two plays later, Bankey took a sweep around left end for a 14-yard touchdown.

After a penalty and a sack by Ephraim Watkins gave Chiawana first-and-31 at its 38, Zamora tried to go long again and was picked off by Ryan Jackson, who returned it to the Bullpups 49.

“I just saw a single receiver – they’d been thrown at him all game,” Jackson said, “so I just read the quarterback and made a play on the ball.”

“I say it every week, (Defensive coach HT) Higgins puts them in great position, the kids just have to make plays and the kids went out and made plays tonight. And when you make plays, great things happen.”

Bankey carried 37 yards to the 14 and two plays later McKenna lobbed it to Howell in the corner for a 21-yard TD.

The kick was wide left, and G-Prep led 27-7 at intermission.

“Well, you know, we are a running team,” Howell said. “And when you get those great opportunities you get to, like, just do your thing. Then you got to make the most of it, you know?”

Zamora was 7 of 15 for just 55 yards with three interceptions in the first half.

“(The defensive backs) work so hard and they deserve that,” Melzer said. “I was super happy to see them finally get rewarded with those picks.”

Chiawana attempted an onside kick to start the second half but it was recovered by G-Prep at the Riverhawks’ 48. McKenna hooked up with Dylan O’Keefe on a 27-yard pass to the 9 and on third down Howell took a reverse pitch and waltzed untouched into the end zone to make it 34-7.

“We have two very talented receivers out there in (O’Keefe and Howell),” Dave McKenna said. “They can catch it and they demonstrated that.

“We just happen to be a triple-option team and so when we throw it to them, they go and get it and great things happen for us.”

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