The Central Valley and Mt. Spokane football programs are similar in a lot of ways.
Both are well-coached and like to move the ball around to multiple players on offense. They both pride themselves on playing rugged, stingy defense.
And they both typically end up at or near the top of the Greater Spokane League standings in the 4A and 3A ranks.
So many times, when titans clash the smallest mistake or turnover proves to be the difference.
A pair of miscues on special teams in the first half Friday allowed Central Valley to build a lead and the visiting Bears held off the Wildcats 21-19 at Union Stadium.
It took the full 48 minutes, though.
Mt. Spokane recovered two onside kicks late in the fourth quarter to draw within two points, but Texas A&M-bound Ethan Moczulski’s 60-yard field-goal attempt with 4.5 seconds left was off the mark to the left.
“I said, you know, there’s probably not another team in the state that would even try it,” Mt. Spokane coach Terry Cloer said. “He loves the pressure and he thrives on it, and he’s gonna beat himself up over it but, you know, we put him in that position because we trust him and we know that he can do it.”
Luke Abshire went 17 of 26 for 291 yards and had touchdown passes of 27, 55 and 35 yards for Central Valley (3-1, 3-0).
“I mean, he’s incredible,” CV coach Ryan Butner said. “His timing has been off a little bit in practice, which is why we haven’t probably gone that route of throwing more often. But tonight, there was a lot of confidence from our quarterback, a lot of confidence from our line, and our wide receivers caught the ball better than they’ve caught it all season.”
Unnecessary roughness and pass interference penalties against the CV defense in the first quarter helped set up Mt. Spokane at the CV 31-yard line. The drive stalled, but Moczulski drilled a 43-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
CV was forced to punt, but the reception was muffed and the Bears’ Gunner Harty recovered at the Mt. Spokane 40. Five plays later, Abshire found Hudson Dayton alone in the end zone for a 27-yard score and 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The Bears forced another punt, then a bad punt snap by Mt. Spokane (2-1, 2-1) gave CV a short field. Abshire hit Justin Finn in stride for a 55-yard touchdown pass which put the Bears up 14-3.
“They hit us over the top a couple times and that’s about all they had, you know, in the first half,” Cloer said. “It was just two big plays.”
The Wildcats got into CV territory with their first drive of the third quarter. When the drive stalled at the CV 36, Moczulski’s 53-yard field-goal attempt sailed just wide left.
Abshire picked up a first down with his legs but took a good pop and missed a play. On the next, he hooked up with Dayton again for a 55-yard gain. But Aiden Labrosse hooked a 26-yard field-goal attempt and it stayed 14-3.
CV got the ball back at its 22. Abshire connected with Finn on a 26-yard hookup, then faced with fourth-and-3 at the Mt. Spokane 35, Abshire hit Dylan Gravelle on a short slant and he split the defense and took it all the way. The kick made it 21-3 with 9 minutes left.
The Wildcats didn’t fold. Flanigan found Blake Speer on the far sideline for 55 yards, then again on the near one for 34 yards to the 1. Jackson Kink plowed into the end zone from there to make it 21-10.
CV had to kick it back, though. After a couple of short gains, an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Bears defense following an incomplete pass put it at the CV 23. Flanigan hit Tyler Alm to the 9, and a personal foul moved it to the 5.
Moczulski’s short field goal made it a one-score game with 1:15 left.
“Penalties need to be cleaned up,” Butner said. “There’s definitely some things that we need to address on that end. But it was a hard-fought game on both ends and it allowed both teams to play aggressive, which probably caused the flags to come out more.”
Mt. Spokane recovered the onside kick. On fourth-and-10 from the 19, Flanigan found Bradley Runge for a TD, but the two-point conversion was incomplete.
The Wildcats recovered a second onside kick with 36.1 seconds left, but the offense couldn’t get going again and Moczulski’s last-second attempt went awry.
“We battled and we gave ourselves an opportunity to win it a couple of times,” Cloer said. “And that’s all you can ask for.”