Welcome to the first weekly installment of a new feature we’re calling “Friday Night (High)lights” – an obvious play on words to the famous book, movie and TV show. It’ll be a look back at the high school football action from across the Greater Spokane League, Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

It’s an unfortunate aspect of our business that earlier deadlines and lack of a print edition of our paper on Saturday has sort of put a damper on our high school football coverage.

We’re working harder than ever to keep our website updated with scores, stats and recaps, but not having that information in your hands to read along with your Saturday morning coffee is tough to take for longtime subscribers of the print edition.

As a quick aside, have you seen our new scores and schedules page on our website? Our web team worked tremendously hard on it over the summer and they did a terrific job.

The scores and schedules are now searchable by sport, league, season, school and date, with league standings posted at the bottom of each box score. No more jumping back-and-forth trying to figure out where your favorite team falls in the standings.

Visit Spokesman.com/high-school-sports and click on one of the blue buttons marked “scores” or “schedules.”

You can find out what happened there. In this space, I’ll try tell you why or how it happened, and what it might mean.

So let’s go!

COVID cancellations

Forget any ideas of “returning to normal.” We’re just two weeks into the season in Washington, and already havoc has been wrecked upon the schedule due to COVID-19 concerns.

There were at least eight cancellations this week in our area due to quarantines and contact tracing, and there were dozens across the state.

COVID concerns wiped out the week’s biggest matchup, the Battle of the Bell between Mead and Mt. Spokane, where they were expecting close to 5,000 people at Union Stadium.

In Coeur d’Alene, the Vikings were canceled on twice. First, West Valley of Yakima canceled on Thursday – the Rams’ second straight cancellation.

CdA and Mt. Spokane quickly struck a deal around 11 p.m. Thursday evening to play at Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, but on Friday morning the Wildcats had to back out of the deal due to concerns of their own.

East Valley had to cancel this week and next week’s rivalry game against West Valley, which was set to be broadcast on SWX.

And on and on.

With colder temperatures on the way and folks moving indoors, it’s hard not to envision this becoming a season-long problem, and obviously this is impacting other sports and school attendance as well.

Blistering Bullpups

As for actual football, the most impressive performance of the weekend was at Gonzaga Prep, where the Bullpups had two rushers eclipse or approach 200 yards each in a 44-6 win over Eastmont of Wenatchee – which beat Central Valley in Week 1 33-31.

Senior quarterback Ryan McKenna, who’s been running the multiple-option offense since he could carry a ball, carried 28 times for 230 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Matteo Saccomanno added 197 yards on 21 carries with a score.

McKenna, who plays hockey for the Spokane Braves of the KIJHL, also passed for a score. He’s already rushed for 357 yards in two games.

Gonzaga Prep was ranked No. 2 in Class 4A by state media this week, and it’s not hard to understand why. They returned their entire front seven on defense, including Division I prospect Kaz Melzer and run-stuffer Ephraim Watkins.

With the offense gelling so quickly they’re going to be a handful for GSL opponents every week – and their style of play could become a factor in November.

Bears bounce back

CV fell to Eastmont last week after a two-point conversion was stuffed with 8 seconds left in the game – though some are of the opinion the Bears fell victim to a bad spot in that one.

Regardless, CV coach Ryan Butner admitted he wasn’t happy how his team traveled last week and he felt much better about how they came out this week in a 21-0 shutout of Lewis and Clark.

“Last week, it took us a long time to get started,” Butner said. “This week was much better. A better week of practice, came out better, a little bit more physical. Defense showed what they can do.”

LC is young at quarterback. Week 1 starter Charles Northern is a junior, but he missed Friday’s game with a stomach flu. That left sophomores Jack Paridon and Cooper Jefferies to run the show and the Bears defense was merciless on the young Tigers.

CV senior quarterback Luke Abshire and his brother, junior running back Zac Abshire, were a 1-2 punch that were able to wear down the LC defense as the night went on.

Rough sledding for 2As

West Valley, Shadle Park, Clarkston and Pullman all lost on Friday, and Shadle’s 21-13 loss to 1A Riverside was the only one even remotely close.

West Valley, which was ranked No. 10 by the state media this week, fell behind Lakeland 28-0 in the first half en route to a 42-13 loss on the road.

Obviously it’s early, but the seven GSL 2A teams are a combined 3-8 this season, with North Central’s 20-17 win over Grandview on Friday the only win over a program in the same classification.

Ram tough

Riverside has something going. The Rams knocked off Shadle Park to move to 2-0 as Silas Ng had three touchdowns runs to go with 83 yards on 14 carries.

Coach Buddy Wood has a bunch of seniors along the line and Ng is turning into a league MVP before everyone’s eyes.

They went 4-0 in the shortened spring season with nothing to play for other than pride, now the Rams are creeping up in the 1A polls, where they were ranked No. 9 last week. Riverside starts league play against Newport (1-1) next week.

High School Sports Focus