Last season, in coach Keith Stamps’ first with Mead, the Panthers got off to a slow start and didn’t finish games the way the new coach wanted.
They haven’t had either problem through three games this season.
Colby Danielson rushed for touchdowns of 22 and 31 yards and passed for two more and the Panthers stayed undefeated, beating the Ridgeline Falcons 38-0 in a Greater Spokane League 4A/3A game at Union Stadium on Thursday.
Sophomore linebacker Braeden Harvey returned an interception 70 yards for a first-half touchdown.
“Our goal this week was to get better, and I think we did,” Stamps said. “I thought defensively it was a good game. Offensively we were able to achieve some things we tried to last week and couldn’t.”
Danielson, who was relieved after three quarters, finished 14 of 17 for 155 yards through the air, and carried seven times for 73 yards on the ground. Max Workman and Keenan Kuntz had touchdown catches for the Panthers (3-0, 2-0).
“Last week (against University) we got some heavy blitzes and I underthrew some routes, so I knew I had to clean that up a little bit, mechanics-wise,” Danielson said. “There’s a lot to it but yeah, for sure this week, I cleaned up a lot of stuff and I think I made a lot of good throws tonight.”
It was a scoreless tie after one quarter.
“It went, honestly, kind of how I thought it would,” Stamps said. “I think Ridgeline does a really good job defensively.
“We knew we were gonna be challenged to score, and then we were able to hit a big play and then a Pick-6 kind of opens it up.”
The teams traded punts for the first few possessions and Mead took over at its 20 near the end of the first quarter. Danielson connected short a few times, then hit Kuntz in the seam for 15 yards to the Ridgeline 28.
Two plays later, Danielson ran a sprint play to the right, hit the corner and went 22 yards for the score and a 7-0 lead.
“I saw a lot of open grass (on the play), honestly,” Danielson said. “I think there was a D-tackle that was like right behind me, but I got past him then picked up a block on the outside.”
Late in the second quarter, Mead forced Ridgeline (0-3, 0-3) back to its 5 for a punt. The Panthers got it back at the Falcons 30. On second-and-8, Danielson hit Workman on a short in route, and he broke it outside and outran the defense to the end zone.
“I just saw the hole and then just got to the outside and just got there as quick as I could,” Workman said. “We got all this speed on the field, it’s just really awesome. Our quarterback is insanely fast. We just have so much opportunity this season.”
“We know we have some athletes and some speed on the outside and it’s just, can we get them the ball in space,” Stamps said. “Whether that’s over the top or, you know, a tunnel screen today … that’s obviously a part of what we’re trying to do.”
The Falcons found some life in the waning moments of the half.
Kole LeGrant took a draw for 21 yards, then Landon Garner hit Ryan Koppenhaver on a fly for 34 yards to the Mead 30.
Garner tried to hit a receiver on a slant route, though, and Harvey stepped in front of it and rumbled 70 yards for a TD and 21-0 lead at the half.
“I saw the quarterback shift his hips to the right, so I rolled back and got in my zone, and I just took the pick to the house,” Harvey said.
Stamps loved the instincts from the young linebacker.
“You know what? For a sophomore making the third start of his career, the growth he’s shown from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3. For Braeden Harvey, just for him to make a play like that, it’s pretty cool.”
Mead took the ball at the start of the third quarter and Danielson hooked up with Workman on a 39-yard catch-and-run to the Falcons 10. Two plays later, Danielson threaded the needle to Kuntz on a slant for a 6-yard touchdown.
“It was a little congested in the area,” Danielson said. “But I found the pocket area, I guess. I just hit (Kuntz) and he did some work and got in the end zone.”
On the next possession, Danielson took a broken play 31 yards for his second score of the night.