Defense was key in the Cheney High football team’s 13-7 non-league win over the Northeast A League’s Deer Park Stags, Sept. 11.
After a scoreless first half, that included a failed field goal attempt from the Blackhawks, Ty Graham picked up a fumble early in the third quarter, taking it to Deer Park territory.
Graham followed it up with a rushing touchdown to give the Blackhawks the lead, 7-0. Deer Park answered with a rushing touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
In the fourth quarter, Harrison King intercepted a pass from Stags’ quarterback Conner Odea and brought the ball to the 2-yard-line. Cheney quarterback Josh Martin ran it in for the touchdown.
In the final seconds of the game, Odea threw a pass to the end zone, only for Graham to intercept it.
“Deer Park is a good team and head coach Keith Stamps does a great job,” Cheney head coach Bobby Byrd said. “Offensively, we didn’t get a lot of momentum going or take advantage of scoring opportunities, but we were able to rely on our defense a little.”
King had two interceptions in the game. Byrd also complimented the performances of Graham and the linebacker corps of Chris Fuentes and Cade VanWormer. Individual statistics were not available at press time.
“We had picks left and right, it kept us going in the game,” Byrd said.
The Blackhawks are 2-0 overall, along with fellow Great Northern League rivals East Valley, Clarkston and Pullman.
Cheney hosts Inland Empire League 4A’s Lakeland, out of Rathdrum, Idaho, Sept. 18. Lakeland is currently 0-3 this season with losses against Lewiston, West Valley and East Valley. Last year, the Blackhawks defeated Lakeland 21-10.
Despite Lakeland’s losing record, Byrd is not underestimating the Hawks. This week the Blackhawks will focus on cleaning up mistakes on offensive and special teams, work on scenarios where they can “take advantage of opportunities” and continue to “focus on the little things.”
“Teams who play with heart, like Lakeland, can overcome the odds and we’ll prepare the best we can and hopefully win another great game,” Byrd said.
The stands on Cheney’s side were full for the Deer Park game and the Sept. 4 season opener against Colville. Byrd said the atmosphere and school spirit gets the team excited.
“When you’re away, it’s usually just the family and your girlfriend, but at home, it’s an entire crowd there to support you,” Byrd said. “Hopefully the crowd will once again pack the stands,” Byrd said.