Everything was there for “Friday Night Lights” – except the actual lights.
Ferris hosted its traditional South Hill rival Lewis and Clark on opening night, kicking the football season off with a Greater Spokane League game right out of the gate.
The game itself wasn’t full of suspense. Senior running back Gentz Hilburn carried 25 times for 168 yards with two touchdowns on the ground and one more through the air and LC handled the Saxons 38-6.
But other factors were memorable.
In years past, that would have meant loading up the buses and cars and heading out to Albi Stadium, a 30,000-seat relic of a different age.
Over the past two years, with Albi in the process of being leveled, the game would have been played at University High School, or Union Stadium, or one of the other facilities around town, maybe on a Thursday, maybe on a Saturday.
But Friday afternoon, Ferris hosted a game on campus for the first time since 1996, and for only the fourth time in history. In fact, the matchup between the Saxons and Tigers was the first GSL game to be contested at the South Hill campus.
Since Ferris’ campus field does not have lights, kickoff came at 4 p.m., while the sun was still blazing and temperatures hovered in the mid-90s.
None of that dampened the mood, as the main grandstand was packed – as well as the hillsides on either end of the stand and the portable bleachers in the north end zone to accommodate the LC student section.
“I think Ferris did a great job hosting,” LC coach Joe Ireland said. “They should be proud of themselves. I didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t been here I think since I was in sixth grade.”
Hilburn lined up at tailback, wing and even at quarterback on occasion.
“He’s a special kid and he can do special things, and I’d be a really bad football coach if I didn’t give him the ball as often as possible,” Ireland said.
“I felt great about the win,” Hilburn said. “I felt like we were all dialed in together. We knew what we had to do to win.”
LC junior quarterback Cooper Jeffries completed 3 for 5 passes for 76 yards and two TDs.
“That was my first actual game starting on varsity,” Jeffries said. “So it was a great atmosphere and I was excited.”
“I’m really proud of Cooper,” Ireland said. “This is only his second year playing football in his life. And he’s a gamer.”
LC’s defense intercepted Ferris sophomore QB John Olson four times. Olson completed 7 of 23 passes for 49 yards and rushed for the Saxons’ lone score .
“First game anything can happen so, to be honest, I’m glad we came out and we executed well enough to win,” Ireland said. “We’re healthy and you know, our kids are gonna have a tough couple of weeks.”
LC plays at Central Valley and Mt. Spokane its next two games.
“(The win) sure feels good,” Ireland said. “But this is a tough league and every game is difficult.”
The teams traded turnovers on the first two possessions. LC took the ball in Ferris territory after a short punt and Hilburn’s second carry turned into a 45-yard touchdown run.
“Having Gentz eases the tension a little bit with everybody,” Jeffries said. “He’s a great leader. He’s a great guy. He makes everything a little better.”
The Tigers’ defense forced another punt and LC started at midfield. Jefferies got loose for 28 yards down the sideline. On first-and-goal at the 1, Aiden Haugen pounded it in for a 14-0 lead.
After Tommy Mickelson grabbed LC’s second interception at the Ferris 39, Jeffries connected with Sam BaFou Toure down the sidelines for a 43-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0.
Wilson Nash’s 32-yard field goal gave LC a 24-0 lead at halftime.
Ferris got on the board right after halftime. A fumble on an exchange gave the Saxons the ball at the LC 22. Six plays later, Olson piled his way in from the 2, but a bad snap on the extra point kept it at 24-6.
Gentz added a 37-yard TD gallop and a 3-yard TD catch on a wheel route in the third quarter.
“I mean, everyone knows what we’re gonna do,” Ireland said. “And we just want to be physical and we want to grind on them and then hope that the second half … things start going our way.”