Blue Hawks hold off Mission, 38-32, in season opener

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Clark Fork Valley Press/Mineral Independent | September 2, 2020 12:15 PM

By SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER

Valley Press

A key defensive play and two touchdowns in the last 22 seconds of the first half keyed the Thompson Falls Blue Hawks to a 38-32 win over the Mission Bulldogs as the 2020 high school football season kicked off in St. Ignatius.

The Blue Hawks win spoiled Mission’s Senior Night, which was done in the event the COVID-19 pandemic causes future cancellations of games or the season.

While coaches and officials wore masks at times, the game was pleasantly devoid of the strangeness that has resulted from the world wide pandemic.

The Blue Hawks had no trouble moving the ball in the first half, but the events at the end were the difference as the Bulldogs mounted a spirited comeback in the second half.

Leading 16-6, the Blue Hawks got the ball back with 3:30 left after Mission’s Layne Spidel ran 27 yards for a touchdown.

Facing a third down and needing eight yards, Blue Hawks quarterback Roman Sparks hit Lucas Andersen for a 24-yard gain. Four plays later, the senior signal caller ran in from two yards out to make it 22-6 with just 22 ticks on the clock.

When the Bulldogs got the ball back at their 12-yard line, little time remained, but it was just enough for Nathan Schraeder to pick off a pass thrown up for grabs. After he returned it, the Blue Hawks had the ball at Mission’s 18-yard line with four seconds left.

Head coach Jared Koskela called timeout before the final play. When the Blue Hawks came out of it, Sparks lofted a pass to the goal-line where Trae Thilmony slipped under a Mission defender and caught the ball just inside the goal line. Thilmony capped the Hail Mary play with a successful run on the conversion to give his team a 30-6 halftime lead.

While the game appeared out of reach for Mission, the key interception and late touchdown proved to be vital for the Blue Hawks.

The Bulldogs pulled with 16 points, 30-14, when Charley Adams scored on a 4-yard TD run. A Kellen McClure 37-yard pass to John Komotios set up the score.

The Blue Hawks were moving the ball again on their next possession, but an unsportsmanlike penalty ended the drive.

McClure and Canyon Sargent hooked up again for a big play, this time a 30-yard TD, to make it 30-20.

The Blue Hawks regained their composure and marched for a touchdown to make it 38-20. Sparks scored from two yards out and then hit Andersen for the conversion.

Mission scored the final two TDs on big pass plays with McClure hitting Bryce Umphrey for a 17-yard score and Komotios for 21 yards to make it 38-32 with 2:54 left.

Despite Mission’s best efforts to force a turnover, the Blue Hawks held on and Sparks eventually knelt down at the Mission 3 to end the game.

Sparks threw for 149 yards and one TD while running for two more. Schraeder ran 15 times for 69 yards while Andersen caught seven passes for 124 yards.

The Blue Hawks (1-0) have a tough road test coming up Friday in Alberton when they take on the Clark Fork Mountain Cats. Clark Fork was the state 8-man runner-up in 2019. It opened the season last Friday with a 56-12 win over Victor.