Cheney in postseason for second straight season, play first round game with top-ranked, 10-0 Othello
Normally, teams committing five turnovers and over 100 yards in penalties don’t find themselves in the win column when the game is over.
But the Cheney football team isn’t normal. The Blackhawks overcame these obstacles with a three-touchdown performance from quarterback Andrew Graham and a defense that created opportunities by intercepting Clarkston quarterback Austin Hansen five times for a 28-19 win in Clarkston.
Cheney’s win combined with East Valley’s 35-24 victory over Deer Park and Colville’s 26-20 upset of Great Northern League leader Pullman forced a four-way tie between the Blackhawks, Knights, Greyhounds and West Valley – all at 4-2. The league’s two berths to state regional play this weekend went to Cheney and Pullman since both teams were 2-1 against the Spokane Valley schools. District 7 officials unanimously rejected a last-minute protest by East Valley, which finished with the best overall mark at 7-2, seeking a four-way playoff.
Cheney’s defense played opportunistic football right from the start when sophomore Keenan Williams intercepted Hansen on a screen pass, setting up Graham’s 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Austin Kautzman’s 15-yard run gave Cheney a 14-0 lead, and the Blackhawks extended that to 21-0 in the third on a 73-yard Graham to Eric Igbinoba score.
“They were putting nine, 10 guys in the box,” head coach Jason Williams said. “They brought the house to stop the run, that was their answer to Austin. We kind of spread the field out, Eric beat his guy.”
A fumble by Graham led to tailback Colby Ruark’s 1-yard plunge putting the Bantams on the board, but Cheney answered with Graham again finding Igbinoba, this time a 41-yard strike and 28-7 third quarter lead. From there things got a little crazy on both sides of the ball.
Most of Cheney’s eight penalties came in the second half, one wiping out a Kautzman 70-yard TD run in the third. The Bantams used the mistakes to climb back into the game, making things interesting with two scores by Hansen in the fourth, an 8-yard run and a 7-yard pass, but three times the Blackhawks picked the senior off to thwart drives: Sam Pegg late in the third, senior Jacob Christianson midway through the fourth and Igbinoba in the final minutes.
The win was Cheney’s third straight, giving them a 6-4 overall record and as mentioned above, a trip to the postseason. The Blackhawks earned the GNL’s No. 2 seed – which means a trip this Saturday to face the state’s top-ranked 2A team, 10-0 Othello.
The Huskies have been putting up big numbers, scoring 42 first quarter-points in a 68-6 win over Grandview in clinching the Central Washington Athletic Conference title. They also beat a common opponent, East Valley-Yakima, 35-0 in a game Williams said was close until the Red Devils tried a fake punt at the 15-yard line down 7-0. East Valley beat Cheney 12-6 on a last minute 71-yard TD pass in the Blackhawks’ season-opener.
The closest challenge to Othello so far has been CWAC opponent Prosser. The Huskies shut out the Mustangs, fourth ranked at 9-1 and the conference’s No. 2 seed, 16-0 in the second half en route to the 30-14 win, their third.
Williams said Othello is big and athletic and expects them to pound the ball on the ground against Cheney’s defensive front seven. Defensively the Huskies front 3-4 players are good, but Williams’ thinks there are opportunities for the Blackhawks if they can get to the linebackers and secondary.
The trick for the Blackhawks will be to withstand the early Husky onslaught.
“Our hope is our season has been tough, consistently tough and that will be our advantage,” he said. “We need to play four quarters and make them play four quarters. It’s a playoff game – you’ve got to go for broke now.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.