Hawks outscore Eagles in fourth quarter, knock off state-ranked opponent for second time this season at Tom Oswald Field
For the second time this season the Cheney football team were giant killers on a Friday night.
Two weeks ago the Blackhawks spoiled East Valley’s unbeaten season with a 34-28 win over the then eighth-ranked Knights. Last Friday on the home turf at Tom Oswald Field it was West Valley’s turn as Cheney overcame a 10-point first half deficit and outscored their opponent 14-0 in the final eight minutes to down the 10th-ranked Eagles 38-31 on Homecoming.
“It’s kind of nice,” Blackhawks head coach Jason Williams said. “It’s been a while since we got them (West Valley). The kids played hard. Played hard for four quarters and that was huge.”
For most of those four quarters it was a back and forth affair. Cheney grabbed the early 7-0 lead when a West Valley punt on the game’s first possession went about 14 yards to their own 32, Austin Kautzman topping the short-field drive with a 1-yard plunge.
West Valley answered quickly, driving 80 yards capped by Tyler Stavnes’ 35-yard TD pass to Marcus Jackson. Stavnes’ 22-yard field goal gave the visitors a 10-7 lead 10 seconds into the second quarter, but Cheney took the lead back on their subsequent possession, driving 79 yards – most of it coming on Graham’s 71-yard pass completion and run to Eric Igbinoba – with Graham diving in from the 1 for the score.
West Valley countered with a pair of Stavnes’ touchdown throws, both to Jackson, of 10 and 17 yards, converting a 2-point pass for a 24-14 lead with 3:49 to play in the half. Cheney cut it to seven 28 seconds before the half on Theo Petropoulos’ 32-yard field goal into a strong south wind, going 80 yards with key third-down conversions on pass plays to Calvin Berstler and Coleman White keeping the drive alive.
The Blackhawks tied the game in the third quarter, getting two big catches from Berstler on a drive that culminated in Kautzman’s 3-yard TD run. Staying true to form for the game, West Valley came right back with a drive capped by Stavnes’ third TD pass, this one 16 yards to Terrynce Duke for a 31-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final eight minutes the back and forth affair ended – and became all Cheney. The Blackhawks’ defense stymied the Eagles, sealing the win with an interception to end West Valley’s possession in the final minute, while the offense turned a pair of drives into scores, a 23-yard Graham pass to Igbinoba on a middle screen tying the game and Kautzman’s third TD, a 3-yard run late.
“It was quite the game,” Williams said. “It was pretty exciting.”
While the players turned in the effort on the field, Williams said the seeds for the win were sown this summer in Cheney’s improved weight training facility. Many of the players took part in the summer lifting and conditioning program and were more prepared to take on a physical West Valley squad.
“To play physical like that you have to be a physical presence,” Williams said. “The kids played assignment football. We needed to make plays and we did that all along.”
Cheney moves to 2-2 in Great Northern League play, 4-4 overall. With two games remaining, there are a couple of scenarios that can get the Blackhawks into the playoffs, especially now that they own tiebreaker wins over both Spokane Valley schools ahead of them in the standings.
All scenarios involve Cheney winning out, something that begins Friday in the home finale against last-place Colville, 0-4, 2-6 on the red turf at Eastern Washington University. Williams feels the Indians are better than their record indicates, are big and physical and will bring their typical, double-wing smash-mouth running game to Roos.
While the scenarios include losses by second-place Pullman and fourth-place Deer Park, both owning tiebreakers over Cheney, Williams knows the Blackhawks’ post season road could end if they overlook the Indians.
“You know the GNL,” he said. “You’d better show up every week.”
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.