The Cheney High football team faced their toughest challenge this season after a 28-20 nonleague Homecoming win over the previously undefeated Sunnyside Grizzlies, Sept. 25.
Sunnyside took an early lead after capitalizing on the Blackhawks’ mistakes. Recovering a fumbled kickoff return, the Grizzlies got on the scoreboard after running back Fernando Cid-Reyes scored a 20-yard touchdown. On Cheney’s first drive, a Sunnyside defender intercepted a pass from Blackhawks quarterback Josh Martin. The Grizzlies Nico Valle had a 2-yard touchdown, followed by a successful extra point to give Sunnyside a 14-0 lead.
“Right out of the gate we knew Sunnyside was going to be better than last year,” Cheney head coach Bobby Byrd said. “They took advantage of a couple of sluggish plays on our part.”
The Blackhawks’ momentum turned around late in the first quarter when Ty Graham scored on a 45-yard rushing touchdown, followed by a successful extra point to bring the score 14-7.
In the second quarter Graham had a two-yard TD. A successful extra point tied the game 14-14.
Cheney’s offense continued their momentum in the third quarter after Graham’s 77-yard touchdown, allowing Cheney to take the lead 21-14. Early in the fourth quarter, Valle threw a scoring pass to Anthony Herrera to bring the score 21-20. Graham blocked the extra point attempt to prevent Sunnyside from tying the game.
Graham would secure the Blackhawks’ lead late in the fourth quarter after a 1-yard touchdown. He had 17 carries for 209 yards.
After shutting out opponents like Colville and Lakeland, Byrd said it was good for his team to face some adversity and have a chance to “rise to the occasion.”
“They overcame a sluggish start and secured the victory,” Byrd said.
Byrd also commended Graham for his effort on offense, defense and special teams, referring to him as the team’s “go-to guy.”
“He’s got a knack for the game,” Byrd said. “Him blocking that PAT was huge. He’s fun to watch.”
On defense, Graham and Cam Hardt each recorded interceptions.
Cheney, 4-0 overall, hosts the East Valley Knights in their first Great Northern League game, Oct. 2. The Knights come in with back-to-back losses, including a 40-13 loss to Idaho’s Sandpoint.
Byrd said the good thing about a five-team league like the GNL is a competitive atmosphere between schools and how every game is as important as the next.
“One loss can put you in second place or it can take you out of playoff contention,” Byrd said. “Every week is a playoff and you’ve got to show up.”
Byrd said his team will continue to sharpen all facets of their game, as well as focus on ball security.
“We coughed it up a couple of times and good teams will take advantage of that,” Byrd said. “When it comes league time, you can’t do that.”