SANDPOINT — “Who let the dogs out?”
The fans at Memorial Field on Friday night were screaming that all night as Sandpoint football cruised to a 39-14 victory over Lake City.
The Bulldogs overcame the ghosts of homecoming games past and rang the bell to improve to 4-2 for the first time in 10 years.
Sandpoint head coach Ryan Knowles was pleased with his team’s performance and their focus throughout the game.
“I’m really proud of the way they’re accepting coaching,” Knowles said. “The course of a football game is hard, a lot of moving parts but the boys are starting to pick it up, they’re starting to understand how to hold to an opponent and its fun to watch.”
Knowles was looking for his defense to force turnovers heading into the matchup and they delivered with four of them including a 39 yard interception return for a touchdown by junior Elijah Larson in the second quarter.
Special teams also came up huge for the Bulldogs. Midway through the second quarter, sophomore Gerrit Cox received a punt, found a crease and shook past a few Lake City defenders en route to a 70 yard touchdown.
It seemed like every phase of the game was working for Sandpoint and Lake City could do nothing about it. And it didn’t help that the Timberwolves lost their starting quarterback on their second drive of the game.
It was fourth and goal from the Sandpoint 13-yard line and Lake City quarterback Chris Irvin dropped back and scrambled to his left. He saw nobody open so he tucked it and tried to run it into the end zone but senior and homecoming king Christian Niemela knocked him out of bounds and out of the game before he could reach the pylon.
Sandpoint took over from there and never looked back as the Bulldogs shut down Lake City’s passing attack the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs started the game the way every coach dreams of with a three and out on defense and an opening drive touchdown on offense.
Sandpoint found the end zone when senior quarterback Jaxon Pettit threw a perfect pass to junior wide receiver Elijah Larson for a 59 yard touchdown. Sandpoint missed the extra point to take an early 6-0 lead.
“It was good to jump on them quick there ... we have a knack of doing that,” Knowles said.
But Lake City didn’t fold and without their starting quarterback they marched down the field and into the end zone to grab a 7-6 lead.
On the ensuing possession, the Sandpoint offense stalled out and was forced to punt. It seemed like all the energy the Bulldogs gained from the early score had been sucked out of the team and the stadium.
Sandpoint needed a spark. Luckily, the Bulldogs have wide receiver Christian Niemela. He caught a 34-yard pass from Pettit on the next offensive drive to get the Bulldogs back on track and seven plays later Cox punched into the end zone from 5 yards out.
“Christian Niemela just keeps showing up,” Knowles said. “You need a big play, look No. 7’s way.”
In the ensuing four minutes, Sandpoint returned a punt and then an interception for a touchdown to take control of the game and led 26-7 at halftime.
The second half was all about the homecoming king and the Sandpoint defense. Niemela caught two touchdowns in the third quarter to increase the lead to 39-7 and the Bulldogs defense continued their dominance.
The only points Lake City scored in the second half came halfway through the final quarter on a 9-yard touchdown run when Sandpoint had its second and third stringers on the field.
Pettit finished with 268 passing yards and three touchdowns and Niemela collected eight catches for 123 yards and two scores.
Sandpoint hits the road for the third time this season to open league play against Moscow 7 p.m. next Friday.
Knowles said the team can’t wait to try and avenge last season’s 39-21 home loss to the Bears.
“We circled that date on the calendar,” he said, “and we know what’s on the line and we know what happened last year and I’m not going to shy away from it. It’s been on our minds and now there is nothing else in the way so we got to go take care of business.”
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Game
Sandpoint 6 20 6 7 39
Lake City 7 0 0 7 14
SHS — Elijah Larson 59 yd pass from Jaxon Pettit (kick blocked)
LC — Uriah Chavez 12 yd run (Dante Harden kick)
SHS — Gerrit Cox 5 yd run (Dylan Peterson kick)
SHS — Gerrit Cox 70 yd Punt Return (Dylan Peterson kick)
SHS — Elijah Larson 39 yd Interception (kick fail)
SHS — Christian Niemela 16 yd pass from Pettit (kick fail)
SHS — Christian Niemela 27 yd pass from Pettit (Dylan Peterson kick)
LC — Uriah Chavez 9 yd run (Dante Harden kick)
PASSING: SHS — Jaxon Pettit, 16-27-1-268. LC — Quarterbacks, 13-21-2-130
SHS Rushing: Gerrit Cox 13-56, Braden Kappen 8-81, Jaxon Pettit 2-(-11), Christian Niemela 1-10, Tyler Lehman 1-(-2), Gordy Dowd 5-40
SHS Receiving: Tyler Lehman 2-15, Elijah Larson 3-108, Gerrit Cox 2-24, Christian Niemela 8-123, Kobe Banks 1-0
Punt Returns: Cox 1-12, Larson 1-39
KOR: Niemela 1-20, Elijah Larson 1-20
LC Rushing: Uriah Chavez 20-181, Chris Irvin 4-(-3), Nicholas Webb 4-12, #3 4-(-9), Seth Nutting 1-21
LC Receiving: Logan Jeanselme 1-19, Uriah Chavez 4-14, Jace Bowman 2-38, Matthew Witcomb 5-48, #3 1-11