There are games on the schedule that need no hype, like when a pair of traditional rivals meet in Week 6 – both sporting zeroes in the loss column in league play.
Such was the case Friday.
If one really wanted to hype the Greater Spokane League 4A matchup between the host Central Valley Bears and the visiting Gonzaga Prep Bullpups, you’d be sure to mention the contrast of high-scoring offensive styles and the withering defenses on both sidelines.
Sometimes things live up to the hype. It did Friday for three quarters.
Ryan McKenna had touchdown runs of 43 and 45 yards and the Bullpups inched closer to locking down the top 4A seed to the Week 10 crossovers with a 35-7 win over the Bears.
With two prolific offenses going, it was Gonzaga Prep’s defense that made the difference. It caused three turnovers and piled up six sacks, several in the fourth quarter when the 4A No. 3-ranked Bullpups (6-0, 5-0) turned a two-score game into a lopsided final.
“Games like this, where the whole team comes together, this is what we play for,” G-Prep defensive end Kaz Melzer said.
“The defense played well all game,” G-Prep coach Dave McKenna said. “We gave up a long drive and then some uncharacteristic things. (Defensive coordinator HT) Higgins called a great game and the kids were dialed in.”
“We had a good meeting and decided we needed to holds our contain better on the outside,” G-Prep defensive end Cavan McKeirnan said. “We held it down better there in the second half and we came together pretty well.”
Central Valley (4-2, 4-1) was able to move the ball early and held a lead. But several long first-half drives stalled or ended on turnovers.
“Early, we had the opportunity, but they put the clamps down defensively on us and we just weren’t as efficient as he have been the last couple of weeks,” CV coach Ryan Butner said.
McKenna finished with 159 yards on 18 carries.
“He’s a beast,” Melzer said. “I love that kid. He plays his heart out every night. He’s a true leader on the team and he does great things for us.”
“I didn’t do too much, honestly,” Ryan McKenna said. “The O-line blocked unbelievable and we had some guys step up huge and made some great plays.”
“He’s a great football player, I’m proud of him,” Dave McKenna said of his son. “But he’s got 10 other dudes out there fighting with him so it’s a team thing and I’m proud of them.”
With the Bullpups in the 4A driver’s seat, you could forgive them for looking ahead to their Mid-Columbia Conference matchup in Week 10.
“No, no, no,” Dave McKenna said. “We just take one week at a time with these guys, especially with all the things that have surrounded us the last 18 months. We want to enjoy every moment we get with these guys.”
“Our group is special,” G-Prep defensive tackle Ephraim Watkins said. “I think we can rush any passer, we can get after anyone. (CV QB) Luke (Abshire) is incredible, he’s the slipperiest quarterback I’ve ever played. But we kept coming. We were relentless and I think that’s the difference in tonight.”
Abshire completed 19 of 39 passes for 215 yards with two interceptions.
Bears linebacker Brandon Thomas forced a fumble on the Bullpups’ first possession, making G-Prep punt from deep in its territory. CV took over at the GP 45-yard line. Abshire hit Hudson Dayton on the fly for 37 yards to the 1, and Trevor Gravelle pounded it in from there for a 7-0 lead.
On the next drive, the Bullpups converted a fourth-and-1 at midfield. McKenna picked up an 18-yard gain then Matteo Saccomanno busted up the middle untouched for a 24-yard score to tie it.
Early in the second quarter, a roughing the punter penalty on CV gave a Bullpups drive new life.
Three plays after the flag, McKenna burst through the left side and went 45 yards for a TD and 14-7 lead.
“It was just a huge hole,” McKenna said. “It’s hard not to see it, honestly.”
The Bears had a 12-play drive stall at the G-Prep 16, but the snap on a field-goal attempt was mishandled and the Bullpups took over at their 32. A 26-yard run by Lilomaicua Mikalcle moved it into CV territory. On fourth-and-2 from the 4, Nick Bankey went off tackle and dragged a defender into the end zone.
The Bullpups led 21-7 at intermission.
G-Prep took its opening drive of the second half to the CV 26, but defensive tackle George Sonko recovered a fumble. CV couldn’t muster a first down, but Abshire’s punt pinned G-Prep at its 2.
“I think this was a perfect game to show how we play defense as a team, Melzer said. “The DBs locking down, allowing our D-line to get the pressure and everybody doing their job.”
After a three-and-out, CV got it back at the G-Prep 40, but a long heave into the end zone by Abshire was picked off when the Bears receiver fell and the quarter ended scoreless.
“Our defense did a good job early in that second half, keeping us in the game,” Butner said. “We just couldn’t capitalize offensively on anything.”
A bad shotgun snap put CV at its 2 and the resultant punt came out to the 43. After no gain, McKenna burst up the middle, then cut to the sideline to go the distance and put the Bullpups up 28-7 with 8½ minutes left.
After forcing a turnover on downs, G-Prep faced fourth-and-3 at the CV 27. McKenna attempted his second pass of the evening and connected with Bo Howell in the end zone to cap the scoring.
“It’s a great atmosphere, CV’s a great football team,” Ryan McKenna said. “They played unbelievable but our defense really stepped up when they needed to.”
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