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Blackhawks down Rogers for special win

Cheney special teams score two quick, second-half touchdowns in 38-7 romp over Pirates


September 13, 2018

Cheney High football fans at Albi Stadium last Thursday got a taste of the true power of special teams to make an impact in a football game.

After fumbles created some early adversity for the Blackhawks against Rogers High School, it was a pair of special teams plays that turned a close game with the host Pirates into a rout.

Up 10-7 at the half, Cheney sophomore Dusten Butikofer fielded the second-half kickoff at his 8-yardline and sprinted 92 yards for a score. Not long after, senior Camden VerStrate turned a Rogers’ punt he picked up at his own 2 into a 98-yard touchdown run that gave the Blackhawks a 17-point lead.

“We swung the tide really quick, and got momentum back on our side,” head coach Bobby Byrd said.

Momentum stayed with Cheney. Quarterback Alex Long connected with wide receiver Luke Martin on a fourth-quarter 34-yard scoring strike, and tailback Bryden Esquibel capped the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown run as the Blackhawks moved their record to 2-0 with a 38-7 win over the Pirates of the 3A Greater Spokane League.

Byrd praised his team for battling through some early setbacks to eventually take control of the game. Cheney fumbled the ball four times, losing three, something that stymied a couple good drives.

“Ball security will definitely be a theme going forward,” Byrd added.

Alex Petropoulos’ 46-yard field goal gave the Blackhawks an early 3-0 lead, and after falling behind 7-3, Mekhai Goodloe put Cheney on top for good with a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Cheney racked up 369 yards of total offense, including an impressive 295 on the ground, with eight different backs carrying the ball. Max Pierson led all rushers with 122 yards on 11 carries, with VerStrate picking up 52 on nine carries.

Long was 3 for 8 in passing for 64 yards, with Martin making two catches for 44 yards. Cheney had 18 first downs to Rogers nine, controlling the ball and the clock.

The Blackhawks also played well on defense. Defensive back Trevor Rains had a key interception to stop a Rogers drive, while Jacob McGourin, Hyrum McCombie and James Whiteley played well up front.

“Our front seven really gelled,” Byrd said.

Cheney continues in non-league action with its final game against the GSL this Friday, hosting Shadle Park in a 6 p.m. game at Eastern Washington University’s Roos Field. The Highlanders come in at 1-1, earning their first victory last Friday with a 16-14 win over Great Northern League title favorite West Valley.

Offensively, Shadle will feature senior quarterback Carson Doyle, who accounted for both touchdowns against the Eagles. Doyle has a good arm and is effective in the Highlanders spread offense, but is also very mobile.

“Against West Valley, Shadle Park’s best play in the second and third quarters was the quarterback draw,” Byrd said.

Defensively, the Highlanders work out of a 4-2-5 scheme by moving players around. They feature a big front line, Byrd said, along with athletic linebackers and a big secondary.

Byrd said the Highlanders will present challenges for the Blackhawks on both sides of the ball, but Cheney doesn’t plan on doing anything different than what they have so far —controlling the ball and keeping it out of the hands of Shadle’s offense.

“We’re going to continue to do what we do,” Byrd said. “Keep grinding, and limit big plays.”

John McCallum can be reached at


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