SANDPOINT — There are pretty wins and gritty wins, but as the old cliché goes, a win is a win.
Behind yeoman work from Dillan Mitton, who carried 29 times for 142 hard yards and a pair of touchdowns, a big game on both sides of the ball from Alex Stockton and a huge play from sophomore linebacker Tag Benefield, the Bulldogs scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to earn a decidedly gritty 28-21 win over Raymond on Friday night at Barlow Stadium.
First year head coach and former Bulldog player Ryan Knowles savored hearing the victory bell ringing, knowing his team battled tooth and nail for 48 minutes against a salty squad from Canada.
“It’s great, I wanted it for the kids more than anything. They fought their butts off,” described Knowles, whose last win on the field came as a player in the 1990s. “It’s the first time I get to win here as a coach.”
The Bulldogs (1-2) kept things close to the vest for much of the game, riding the power running of Mitton and a short passing attack for most of the game.
Mitton was held in check for stretches, but the Bulldogs’ offensive line eventually wore down the Comets and things started to open up in the fourth quarter. Knowles praised his workhorse back, who finished runs with authority.
“Dillon put his big boy pads on today,” described Knowles. “He took it to that next level. He wanted it more than they did.”
Sandpoint got things started after Jake Ryan recovered a fumble at the Raymond 23 yard line, and Mitton finished the drive for a 7-0 lead. A couple of defensive gems from Tyler Lehman and Stockton led to another short field, with Stockton toting the rock 18 yards for a score and 13-0 first quarter lead.
The Comets (2-1) settled in and put an 87 yard drive together, and after a pair of Sandpoint punts they struck again for a 14-13 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs stalled on the first two drives of the third quarter, but the defense continued to get stops, with Connor Hutchings making a nice tackle for loss in the trenches. The Comets extended their lead to 21-13 with a 28 yard scoring strike late in the third quarter.
After stopping Raymond on downs, the Bulldogs caught the Comets sleeping with a rare vertical route and Stockton hauled in a 34 yard strike on a corner route from Jaxon Pettit to draw within two, before Mitton pounded it in for a two point conversion and a 21-21 tie. Pettit finished 10-18 for 85 yards, with zero turnovers as the Bulldogs stayed safe and patient.
The game remained tight late when arguably the play of the game was made by sophomore linebacker Tag Benefield, who flew up and laid out the Comets’ quarterback on 4th and 3, stopping him a yard short as the Bulldogs got the ball back on their own 43 with 3:20 left to play.
Mitton and Pettit each had big gains on the ground, eventually setting up a huge 4th and 3 from the seven yard line with 1:40 left. Mitton ran downhill, bowling over a tackler and picking up the huge first down and scoring from one yard out to take a 28-21 lead with 1:30 left.
Brayden Payne would intercept a final deep heave on fourth down to secure the win, which while not the most pretty, was one the team can build momentum on going forward.
“They say winning is a good deodorant,” claimed Knowles. “There’s some stinky stuff, but we’ll get it cleaned up.”
Sandpoint is at 3A Greater Spokane League power Mt. Spokane, the No. 7 ranked team in the state of Washington, next Friday night at Joe Albi Stadium.
Raymond 0 14 7 0 — 21
Sandpoint 13 0 0 15 — 28
Spt — Dillan Mitton 1 run (Dylan Peterson)
Spt — Alex Stockton 18 run (kick failed)
Ray — Tanner Maynes 3 run (Chase Heggie kick)
Ray — Tanner Salmon 18 catch from Ty Mazutinec (Heggie kick)
Ray — Mason Stock 28 catch from Mazutinec (Heggie kick)
Spt — Stockton 34 catch from Jaxon Pettit (Mitton run)
Spt — Mitton 1 run (Peterson kick)
First Downs 10 13
Rushes-ydds 42-169 29-113
Passing yds 85 112
QB 10-18 14-31
Interceptions 0 1
Punts-Ave 40.5 5-28
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-1
Penalties 9-70 6-40
Rushing: RHS — Bryson Morse 25-124, Elija Morse 4-25 SHS — Dillan Mitton 29-142, Jaxon Pettit 6-24, Alex Stockton 2-21, Payton Cox 2-(-16), Christian Niemela 1-(-4), Declan Plummer 2-2
Receiving: RHS Mason Stock 2-39, Drake Still 3-27, Brady Baines 4-31, Gavin Wolcott 5-83 SHS: Christian Niemela 1-4, Declan Plummer 2-10, Hunter Elliott 5-23, Kerry Johnson 1-11, Dillan Mitton 2-3, Alex Stockton 1-34
Punt Returns: Riley Anderson 1-10, Christian Niemela 3-48, Ryker Davison 1-5
KO Returns: Christian Niemela 1-29, Riley Anderson 1-7, Dillan Mitton 2-49 Drake Still 5-104