It started as a defensive struggle. It ended with some last-minute offensive heroics – and one final defensive stand.
Colby Danielson hit Keenan Kuntz on a skinny post from 18 yards out with 52 seconds left, the defense made it stand up and the visiting Mead Panthers edged the Central Valley Bears 21-17 in a Greater Spokane League 4A/3A game on Friday.
CV took the ball back and drove to the Mead 27 with 5 seconds left. Dylan Gravelle found Hudson Dayton with a lob pass, but Dayton was surrounded by Panthers and hauled down at the 4.
Mead improved to 4-1, 3-1 in league while Central Valley fell to 3-2, 3-1.
“I saw a lot of green, a lot of grass,” Kuntz said of the late touchdown. “The decided they wanted to give me single coverage and I made them pay for it.”
It’s the second week in a row Mead has clawed back late. Last week, its comeback attempt fell just short against Gonzaga Prep.
“We talked all week long about playing for 48 minutes,” Mead coach Keith Stamps said. “We sign up for 48 minutes and we’re going to play for 48 minutes.
“I’m pretty proud of these guys tonight.”
There are two 4A teams and two 3A teams in the league with one or fewer losses after Week 5.
“This was a good win for us,” Stamps said. “Our goal every Friday night is to come out on top and how you get there can be interesting and tricky. To stay at pace in the league – the kids worked hard this week.”
Mead got the ball with 2:01 left in the game trailing 17-14. Danielson connected with Max Workman for 18 yards, then hit Johnny Talarico for 19 yards on a sliding catch at the CV 17.
“Colby put it in the perfect spot,” Talarico said. “I just knew I had to make a play for him.”
Two plays later, Kuntz got inside his defender and made the touchdown catch in stride at the goal line.
“We knew we were going to get a coverage we liked on the backside,” Stamps said. “It’s the same play we ran last week at Prep, it was just a little high last time.”
Early in the third quarter, CV linebacker Brandon Thomas – who missed last week with a hand injury and played in Friday in a cast – had to be helped off the field when his prosthetic right leg broke. A replacement was brought in and he made it back to the field for the Bears’ final defensive stand.
“I feel a little frustrated,” Thomas said. “I feel like I let my team down for a little in the third quarter, but I came back and tried to help them out again.”
“He’s incredible,” CV coach Ryan Butner said. “He’s one of a kind. That’s just who he is. There’s nothing fake about that kid. We really missed him in our game last week and I was really glad to have him back this week. I love coaching when he’s on the field.”
On the Panthers’ fourth play of the game, an exchange was fumbled and CV linebacker Ethan Bush fell on it at the Mead 32. An unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the Bears back and they settled for Aiden Labrosse’s 37-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
Mead got the ball back at its 30 and drove 13 plays, culminating with Danielson’s 2-yard sneak for a touchdown. Talarico provided a couple of big plays with a 17-yard end around and 18-yard catch to set up first-and-goal.
The rest of the half saw the defenses bend but not break – and each offense make a big mistake.
CV put together a 13-play drive, including a roughing the punter call. But due to offensive penalties, the Bears only got out to their 39 and a short punt gave Mead the ball it its 41.
Talarico busted a 22-yard carry to put the Panthers on the CV 21. Danielson broke containment for a 20-yard TD run, but it was called back for an illegal block. Mead turned it over on downs after Danielson’s pass on fourth-and-19 from the CV 30.
The Bears’ offense took 14 plays to reach the Mead 28. Gravelle saw Kaden Harkin break free on a post route, but the pass tipped off Harkin’s hands.
Labrosse attempted a 50-yard field goal with 54 seconds left in the half, but it fell short, and Mead led 7-3 at halftime.
On their first possession of the second half, the Bears went back to Harkin on the post route on third-and-5. This time, he gathered it in stride for a 47-yard touchdown catch-and-run, and the Bears went up 10-7.
Mead was forced to punt near midfield, but the Panthers caught a break. The ball bounced off a CV player and was recovered by Mead at the Bears 19. Danielson took it 11 yards to the 2, then went around the right end for a TD and 14-10 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, a short Mead punt from the end zone gave CV the ball back at the Mead 21. The Bears capitalized as Gravelle sneaked it in from the 1 for a 17-14 lead with 8:37 left.
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