Blackhawks end two-game skid, face East Valley in league showdown Friday
In all its preparation to take on Cheney last Friday night, the Sandpoint Bulldogs might have overlooked a key part of the Blackhawks offense – Austin Kautzman.
That was a crucial mistake because all the senior tailback did was rush for 151 yards and three touchdowns – including a 94-yard kickoff return en route to Cheney’s 35-13 road win. The win not only ended a two-game losing skid for the Blackhawks, moving them to 2-3 overall, but served as a reminder of what the team is capable of doing.
“We definitely can run the ball when we want to,” head coach Jason Williams said.
Cheney ran for 316 yards against the Idaho 4A Bulldogs (1-4), achieving one of the goals Williams said they set for themselves in the game, controlling the clock. They also got good special teams play, evidenced by Kautzman’s touchdown in the fourth quarter after the Bulldogs scored to pull within 21-13.
Cheney’s first score came via the short field, marching 27 yards in three plays, with Kautzman scoring from the 4 with 2:26 to go in the first quarter. Sandpoint countered with an 11-play, 73-yard drive, with Chase Rodriguez scoring on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Nick Prindiville but the Blackhawks swung back with a drive of their own, 75 yards in seven plays to run 8 minutes and 40 seconds off the clock, with Kautzman scoring from the 1 for a 14-7 halftime lead.
A six-play drive capped by Eric Igbinoba’s 12-yard TD run gave the Blackhawks a 21-7 lead midway through the third quarter. Sandpoint closed to within eight points on a seven-play, 70-yard drive, with running back Matt Lockey scoring from the 1.
But Kautzman’s 94-yard score negated that, and the Blackhawks then forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball over on downs deep in their territory, mounting a four-play 27-yard drive capped by Andrew Graham’s 1-yard score with 2:12 to play that sealed the win.
Williams said his team had a good week of practice heading into the game and coming off a disappointing 22-20 last-minute loss to Pullman to open Great Northern League play. The Blackhawks were much more physical against the Bulldogs this week on both sides of the ball.
“We kind of found our identity a little bit,” Williams said. “We just grounded and pounded. We had several penalties (that negated scoring chances) but the kids played through it.”
From here on out the games carry added significance as Cheney returns to league play this Friday night, hosting unbeaten GNL leader East Valley. The Knights (5-0, 2-0) were ranked eighth in the state in 2A in the Oct. 1 Seattle Times poll.
East Valley comes in averaging 39.6 points per game, including big wins over two teams Cheney has faced, Sandpoint (42-14) and Lakeland (38-14). Williams said they’re an I-formation, power team that likes to run off tackle, featuring several good backs led by Isaac Jordan.
“They don’t change much,” Williams said. “They think they’re better than you and run right at you. We’ll probably kind of take that attitude. I think we feel we should be 5-0 too, but that’s all right. As long as you get hot at the right time.”
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.