Gonzaga Prep went 5-0 in the shortened spring season using its time-tested multiple-option offense and traditionally stingy defense.
With its offensive leader, quarterback Ryan McKenna, and defensive stalwart Kaz Melzer back for their senior seasons, many folks across the state think the Bullpups have as good a chance as any to advance out of Eastern Washington to play for some hardware at the end of the season.
On Friday night at University, the Bullpups showed some moments of early-season rust, but also showed why they’ve been ranked in the top five in 4A by most publications.
McKenna rushed 13 times for 127 yards and a score, Nick Bankey rushed for three touchdowns and the Bullpups topped University 49-0 in the Greater Spokane League opener for both teams.
“Our defense played unreal, O-line stepped up when they needed to,” McKenna said. “We started slow, but in the second half we picked it up.”
“Defensively, we answered the bell,” coach Dave McKenna said. “I told the kids, they really showed up. And they need to play that way, they need to play a little chip on their shoulder and get after it. They’re capable of it.
“But I wouldn’t say we’ve practiced that way so I was really pleased tonight to see how they performed.”
The Bullpups outgained U-Hi 310-88, with 305 yards on the ground.
“That was awesome,” Melzer said. “Just coming back from all the adversity we faced with the COVID season, the way this young team came together was unbelievable.”
G-Prep forced a three-and-out on U-Hi’s first possession and after a short punt took over at the Titans’ 35. The Bullpups went deep on first down, but the pass was picked off by Braylen Hoagland in the end zone.
Another three-and-out gave G-Prep the ball at the U-Hi 39. This time, McKenna followed his blockers off tackle, then he outran defenders up the middle for a touchdown an early 7-0 lead.
U-Hi went backward on its next possession. On fourth-and-24 from its 27, the punt snap was low and misplayed. G-Prep’s Gregory Flynn made the scoop and went the distance to put the Bullpups up 14-0 midway through the quarter.
After a turnover, G-Prep got the ball back at the U-Hi 25. With second-and-goal at the 3, McKenna rolled out and tried to hit a receiver in the flat, but Dominic Victor tipped the pass and came down with it at the 10.
“We’ve got to do much better holding on to the football,” Dave McKenna said.
“We can’t turn it over and expect to win. We’ll get better, it’s game one and we haven’t played in a while.”
G-Prep’s defense forced another punt from deep in the Titans’ end and the Bullpups got it back at the U-Hi 33. Sam Ohman took it 15 yards to the 18, then Bankey hit the corner and outraced the defender to the end zone for a 21-0 lead with just under 2 minutes in the half.
Bankey rushed five times for 99 yards.
“When we get the ball in the right hands, when we execute our walks, that’s when good things happen for our offense,” Dave McKenna said.
U-Hi returned the kick to midfield and a 27-yard pass from Thomas Haberman to Hoagland put the ball at the 18 with 4 seconds left. Haberman hit Tre Buchanen on a slant down to the 1, but time expired on the half before they could get off another play.
G-Prep took the second half kick out to its 31.
Five plays later, McKenna hit Bankey with a pitch and the junior tailback went 39 yards for a score and 28-0 lead.
On the Bullpups’ next possession, McKenna ripped off runs of 15, 6, 15, 11 and 5 yards before Matteo Saccomanno plowed in from the 1.
“We were just taking what they gave us and our O-line blocked it perfectly,” Ryan McKenna said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
After another Titans turnover, G-Prep got the ball back at the U-Hi 25. Two plays later, Bankey hit the corner again for a 14-yard touchdown run and 42-0 lead with just over 2 minutes left in the third, instituting a running clock.
“This was a statement game for how we’re going to do this year,” Melzer said.