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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: High school football holds its first complete Friday Night Lights a day before college football does it even later

Ridgeline quarterback Dakota Means (4) is stopped on a fourth down run by Lewis and ClarkÕs Kade Parbon (34) during a high school football game on Friday, Sep 3, 2021, at Ridgeline High School in Liberty Lake, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Ridgeline quarterback Dakota Means (4) is stopped on a fourth down run by Lewis and ClarkÕs Kade Parbon (34) during a high school football game on Friday, Sep 3, 2021, at Ridgeline High School in Liberty Lake, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s on. High school football, that is. Throughout the Northwest. Last night was the first Friday of the season with lights everywhere. Cool. But not alone. Today is the first Saturday with lights everywhere as well. They will be needed in Pullman for sure, possibly until Sunday morning.


• We turned on SWX around 7 last night just to be able to say we watched the first game ever played at Ridgeline High. We’re weird that way. We like to be able to look back on such touchstones. It was worthwhile, though the size difference between the host Falcons, made up of mainly sophomores and freshman, and Lewis and Clark was substantial. And proved to be the difference as the Tigers roared, 33-13.

We also kept track of other games through the magic of social media – Twitter is our preferred app – which allowed us to see young men we’ve known a long time excel. And made it easy to mention those excellent moments to friends, via text. None of that is something even this sci-fi loving 14-year-old ever envisioned.

Then again, at 14 I never envisioned I would have to stay up to around midnight to see the end of a college football game. And I’ve experienced a whole lot of those in the ensuing decades.

Of all the changes to a sport I love, and have loved for 50-plus years, that may be the one that bothers me the most. The proliferation of late-night games. Oh, sure, there have always been games under the lights. I remember attending a game with 83,985 of my closest friends at the Coliseum in 1973 between USC and Oklahoma that started late for TV. It was great fun – a 7-7 tie between John McKay and Barry Switzer’s teams – but getting out of the Coliseum parking lot late on a Saturday wasn’t.

And the fun factors havne’t changed since.

A Washington State game that ends at, say, 6 p.m. is a lot easier to enjoy than one that ends around midnight. The drive back to Spokane, where many Cougars fans live and have to travel to and from on game days, hangs over your head throughout the fourth quarter. And is the reason Martin Stadium empties out a bit on the south side – the north side departures are a different story – before the final horn.

But college football isn’t all about the fans in the stands anymore. Hasn’t been that way for decades. Like most live sports beyond high school, it’s most-notably a TV show with an ever-changing cast of characters. And ever-changing plot lines. Cliffhanger endings and the occasional boring sameness. The ratings matter. So do empty broadcast windows. The West Coast fills the late ones. And schools with fewer fans fill the latest ones.

So enjoy the 8 p.m. kickoff in Pullman tonight. Martin Stadium’s stands will be full. Mainly because there has been almost two full calendar years between games with fans allowed. And Cougar fans that don’t make the trip will be glued to their television sets. At least for a half.

• We will be glued into our Laz-e-Boy until the end. No matter the outcome. And then we will post our TV Take. We’ll listen to former Oregon football player Jordan Kent on the play-by-play. And analyze the analysis of former Notre Dame coach Dob Davie.

It’s what we do. And it’s another thing 14-year-old Vince never imagined.


WSU: Who will win tonight? Colton Clark has his first prediction as the S-R’s Cougar beat writer. He’s got Washington State and has it covering the 17.5-point spread. … Colton also has a preview of the game with the unpredictable Aggies and well as his two-minute drill. … The Cougars best offensive lineman, and maybe their best player, is featured in the Seattle Times. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, just what does George Kliavkoff mean when he says the conference will do everything it can to help its best teams succeed? Jon Wilner answers that and more in this Mercury News mailbag. … Colorado opened its season last night, hosting Northern Colorado. The good news? The Buffs won 35-7. The stands were full. And Ralphie VI ran for the first time. … Washington plays host to Montana and former UW assistant Bobby Hauck. And the Huskies will welcome back the beloved helmet car. Who says there isn’t enough money to pay the players? … If Oregon State is to upset Purdue on the road, the defense will have to play as well as it did last season. … Oregon may be looking past Fresno State this morning. If the Ducks are, it could be a long day in Eugene. … Stanford has decided on its starting quarterback against Kansas State, though both Jack West and backup Tanner McKee will play. … California decided to not recruit quarterback Carson Strong. The Bears hope the Nevada star doesn’t take the decision out on them today. … USC and Drake London can’t afford to lose to San Jose State. But the Spartans aren’t the pushover they were when the non-conference game was agreed to years ago. … Utah won Thursday but there is a lot the Utes have to work on. … The same could be said about Arizona State and their Thursday night victory. … Arizona faces BYU in Las Vegas, hoping to upset the Cougars who seem headed to the Big 12. … The biggest game this afternoon is in the Rose Bowl where UCLA tries to make a statement about itself and the conference against LSU. … In basketball news, Arizona’s most recent assistant hire adds lots of experience to the Wildcat staff.

Gonzaga: We waited until everything appeared online and that’s the case this morning. Athlon Sports has its Gonzaga preview, a preseason All-American team with two Bulldogs mentioned and the Zags projected as the overall top seed in the NCAA tourney.

Idaho: The Vandals open their season this afternoon by hosting Division II Simon Frazier. The Clansmen already have had an adventure, as getting to Moscow from British Columbia during a pandemic has to qualify, in some way, as an “adventure.” Peter Harriman has this preview. … Around the Big Sky, Portland State opens the season at Hawaii. There are worse places to play this time of year. … New UNC coach Ed McCaffrey was not unhappy with how his team played at Colorado. … Montana State hopes to be able to say the same after playing at Wyoming today. … Idaho State hosts North Dakota.

Whitworth: The Pirates opened the season on Friday afternoon, hosting Carnegie Mellon, who traveled all the way from Pittsburgh for the matchup. And the Tartans made the trip at least somewhat worthwhile, giving Whitworth all it could handle, though the Pirates prevailed 13-10. Adam Chambers has this game story.

Preps: As we said, high school football is underway everywhere now. Dave Nichols decided to head to U-Hi, where the Titans hosted GSL favorite Gonzaga Prep. The Bullpups rolled, 49-0. … Steve Christilaw was at Ridgeline for the Falcons’ opener. … Dave also has a roundup of the other games throughout the area last night.

Indians: Spokane ascended into a first-place tie with Everett on Thursday night. By the time the Indians took the field at Avista Stadium last night, they were all alone there. After the game with Tri-City was over, Spokane had a one-game lead over the AquaSox, courtesy of its 5-2 victory. Dave has all the information in this story.

Hoopfest: Larry Weir spoke with Matt Santangelo yesterday for the latest on Hoopfest’s cancellation and refund policy. That’s the crux of Larry’s Press Box podcast for Friday.

Mariners: The M’s rode Jarred Kelenic’s hot bat – yes, I just wrote that sentence – to a 6-5 win over the woeful Diamondbacks in Phoenix. They remained in the thick of the wild-card chase. … It doesn’t look as if Kyle Lewis will play this season. He’s still sore and can’t head out to a rehab assignment yet.

Seahawks: The Ahkello Witherspoon era in Seattle didn’t last long. The self-proclaimed best corner in the NFL wasn’t even the best corner in Seattle. And now he is in Pittsburgh. … The Hawks filled their practice squad. And Pete Carroll made sure to have a star or two there as well.

Sounders: The newest Seattle assistant coach met with the media and said all the right things.

Kraken: The NHL will send its best players to the next Winter Olympics, if the pandemic is over.


• You know what would be a good idea today? To get away from the TV set for a while and hike into the backwoods. Just a short jaunt. Enjoy nature. Enjoy the quiet. Spend a couple hours not thinking about … oh, crud. I would be missing UCLA and LSU. Forget that. Don’t bother me. It’s Saturday and football is on. … By the way, happy birthday Tyler. Your mom went labor on Labor Day and I missed the end of the Rams/Cowboys game, when that mattered to me. Still love you though, then and always. Until later …

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