Sports

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Your prayers for snow are working; check out this morning's scene at Schweitzer

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 11:58 AM


Yes, it was smoky and hovering in the 90s a mere 
Marking the year's first snow. - SCHWEITZER MOUNTAIN RESORT
  • Schweitzer Mountain Resort
  • Marking the year's first snow.
couple of weeks ago. And we ended a seemingly endless string of precipitation-free days just a couple of days ago. But for those of us interested in all things winter sports-related, the pictures sent our way from Schweitzer Mountain Resort are enough to get us salivating for snow season.

Check out the scene at the mountain's Sky House:

Schweitzer's Sky House - SCHWEITZER MOUNTAIN RESORT
  • Schweitzer Mountain Resort
  • Schweitzer's Sky House

You can see on this weather radar that there's plenty of precipitation in the mountain areas between Spokane and Missoula; elsewhere in Montana, the early snow has helped with their nasty wildfire season.

Schweitzer is planning on Dec. 1 for its opening day. 49 Degrees North plans to open around Thanksgiving if possible, while Lookout Pass is aiming for Nov. 23. Silver Mountain is likely looking at Thanksgiving weekend, too, if last season is any indication.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Eags enter win column, Cougs keep rolling, Seahawks barely win

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 11:13 AM


Eastern got a win! The Cougs are looking great! And the Seahawks? Well, they barely beat one of the NFL's worst teams. Here's your Monday Morning Placekicker, a breakdown of the weekend's local sports action:


BRONX BOMBERS

EWU's defense made life miserable for Fordham all day Saturday. - EWU ATHLETICS
  • EWU Athletics
  • EWU's defense made life miserable for Fordham all day Saturday.

Eastern Washington fans can breathe a wee bit easier after the Eagles got their first win Saturday on a trip to New York City for a game against Fordham. That win was an emphatic one, a 56-21 rout that featured 10 sacks by the defense and the first appearance of the EWU offense that fans have come to expect. Quarterback Gage Gubrud threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for two more scores, while helping new head coach Aaron Best notch his first win. With the win, the Eagles moved up to No. 11 in the country.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: A Cougar comeback for the ages

Posted By on Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 11:56 AM

WSU linebacker Peyton Pelluer, center, celebrates with teammates after returning an interception 36 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that cut Boise State's lead to 31-23 with 5:51 on the clock. The Cougs won 47-44 in three OTs. - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • WSU linebacker Peyton Pelluer, center, celebrates with teammates after returning an interception 36 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that cut Boise State's lead to 31-23 with 5:51 on the clock. The Cougs won 47-44 in three OTs.

It's Week 2 of the Monday Morning Placekicker, the Inlander's weekly catch-up session on the doings of the Northwest's football teams, allowing total sports geeks to relive (hopefully) some glory from the weekend past, and uninterested and casual-at-best observers to get a Cliff's Notes version to help keep up with sports talk around the dinner table at home or watercooler at work. We'll typically be here every Monday.


COUGARS RALLY FROM 21 DOWN IN THE 4TH, PREVAIL IN 3RD OT

If this turns out to be a special season for Washington State, Coug fans can point to Saturday night's wild events at Martin Stadium as a turning point.

Trailing 31-10 in the fourth quarter and without ineffective and injured starting quarterback Luke Falk (who earlier in the game became WSU's all-time leading passer), the Cougs staged a furious comeback behind backup QB Tyler Hilinski, with the help of two huge Boise State turnovers, forcing overtime on Hilinski's 6-yard TD pass to running back Jamal Morrow with 1:44 left.

After three overtimes and more than four hours of play, with midnight approaching, Hilinski — a redshirt sophomore who completed 25 of 33 passes for 240 yards in relief of Falk — tossed his third TD pass, a 22-yard connection with Morrow, who dove into the end zone for the game-winning points, capping an improbable 47-44 victory. Up next for the 2-0 Cougs? The Pac-12 opener against Oregon State at Martin Stadium, next Saturday at 2:30 pm.


Earlier in the day and a few miles to the east in Moscow, nothing went right for Idaho in a 44-16 shellacking against UNLV at the Kibbie Dome as a Rebels team that had lost in Vegas to Howard, a 45-point underdog, the previous Saturday took their frustration out on the Vandals. Matt Linehan threw for 261 yards and a score for Idaho, which saw its six-game win streak come to a definitive end. It doesn't get any easier for the 1-1 Vandals, who travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to face Western Michigan next Saturday at 4 pm. The Broncos are 0-2, but those losses — neither one a blowout — were at USC and Michigan State.

Ty Brooks and North Dakota State ran all over the Eagles, roiling up 375 rushing yards in the Bison's 40-13 victory. - EWU ATHLETICS
  • EWU Athletics
  • Ty Brooks and North Dakota State ran all over the Eagles, roiling up 375 rushing yards in the Bison's 40-13 victory.

The Aaron Best era in Cheney is not off to an auspicious beginning: The Eagles laid an egg for the second straight week, getting trucked 40-13 by North Dakota State in Eastern Washington's second-most-lopsided home defeat in the past four decades. Quarterback Gage Gubrud completed just 10 of 30 passes for 134 yards and an interception, though he did run for the Eagles' lone touchdown. Eastern will seek its first victory next Saturday, a long way from home: The Eagles travel to New York City to play Fordham, another Football Championship Subdivision team that plays in the Patriot League.

Meanwhile, things are humming right along in North Spokane, as Whitworth (2-0) blew out Whittier at the Pine Bowl, pummeling the Poets 49-10. Ian Kolste threw for three TDs and ran for another as Whitworth debuted its new brand-new, million-dollar FieldTurf surface at its home stadium. The Pirates, who have outscored the opposition 105-23 so far, play La Verne next Saturday at 11 am at the Pine Bowl.


NFL: SEAHAWKS FAIL TO IMPRESS IN OPENER

The Seahawks managed just three Blair Walsh field goals in a season-opening 17-9 loss at Green Bay on Sunday as the offense was ineffective and occasionally inept, totaling just 225 yards, converting on only 3 of 12 third-down attempts, and turning the ball over inside its own 10-yard-line, resulting in one of the Packers' two touchdowns.

Seattle's offensive line did Russell Wilson no favors, as the Seahawks QB was sacked three times, managed to escape from four more sacks, and was hit seven more times by Packers rushers. The game marked the return of Hawks' five-time Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver/return man Tyler Lockett, whose 2016 seasons were ended by serious leg injuries. The Seahawks return to Seattle to host the 49ers next Sunday; kickoff is 1:25 pm.

Elsewhere in the NFC West, former Eastern star Cooper Kupp had four catches — including an 18-yard touchdown — for 76 yards in his NFL debut as the Los Angeles Rams crushed the Indianapolis Colts 46-9, giving 31-year-old Sean McVay the victory in his first game as the youngest head coach in NFL history.

Kyle Shanahan's NFL coaching debut didn't turn out as well, as the San Francisco 49ers fell 23-3 at home to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, and the Arizona Cardinals, expected to be the Seahawks' top divisional competition, sure didn't look like it in a costly 35-23 loss at Detroit as Matthew Stafford, who recently signed a five-year. $135 million contract, the most lucrative in NFL history, threw four TD passes for the Lions.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer tossed three interceptions and Arizona's best running back, David Johnson, carried 11 times for just 23 yards before leaving the game with a dislocated left wrist; he will undergo surgery and could be out for as long as three months.
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TUESDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Week One goes as expected for local squads

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 11:52 AM

A game worth celebrating as the Cougs shut out Montana State in their season opener. - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • A game worth celebrating as the Cougs shut out Montana State in their season opener.

Welcome to another season of the Monday Morning Placekicker, the Inlander's weekly catch-up session on the doings of the region's sports teams, allowing total sports geeks to relive (hopefully) some glory from the weekend past, and uninterested and casual-at-best observers to get a Cliff's Notes version to help keep up with sports talk around the dinner table at home or watercooler at work. We'll typically be here every Monday, but the Labor Day holiday pushed us back, so consider this the only Tuesday Morning Placekicker you'll likely see this season.

Let's do this.

EXCITEMENT SKIPS THE LOCAL TEAMS

There was a lot of great football and exciting games in the first full weekend of the college football season. Did you get a load of UCLA's comeback against Texas A&M on Sunday? Or Tennessee's inexplicable win against Georgia Tech on Monday? Insane.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Spokane hoops legend Jud Heathcote died Monday; revisit our 2009 profile

Posted By and on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 12:36 PM

Jud Heathcote, with Greg Kelser, Earvin Johnson and Terry Donnelly, meeting the media after winning the national championship on March 26, 1979, by a score of 75-64 over Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores. - MICHIGAN STATE ATHLETICS
  • Michigan State Athletics
  • Jud Heathcote, with Greg Kelser, Earvin Johnson and Terry Donnelly, meeting the media after winning the national championship on March 26, 1979, by a score of 75-64 over Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores.

Jud Heathcote was a coaching powerhouse, winning a national title in 1979 at Michigan State after directing his Magic Johnson-led Spartans to a championship win against Larry Bird and Indiana State in one of the best March Madness finales ever.

Heathcote moved to Spokane upon his retirement and often attended Gonzaga games between watching his old Spartans on TV. Heathcote died Monday at 90, and Inlander publisher Ted McGregor Jr. shared a story he wrote for the paper years ago.

This story was originally published on March 26, 2009, under the headline "Jud and the Juggernaut":

The way Jud Heathcote tells it, today marks the 30th anniversary of the day America tuned in to see his green blazer and trademark comb-over. “The reason that game was the most watched ever,” Heathcote deadpans, “was that everyone wanted to see me coach.”

“That game” was the NCAA championship game of March 26, 1979 — and his Michigan State Spartans won it. Oh, and it featured a couple guys you may have heard of — the Spartans’ sophomore sensation Magic Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird, who had led his underdog Sycamores to a 33-0 record up to that point.

The game stands out for a few reasons: For one, it remains the highest-rated game ever televised in the history of basketball. And what came next was huge, too: As Heathcote puts it, “Magic and Larry probably saved professional basketball — the NBA was really declining when they came along.”

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eagles picked to finish 2nd in Big Sky; quarterback Gage Gubrud preseason choice for offensive MVP

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Eastern Washington junior quarterback Gage Gubrud will need to have another huge year to help the Eagles compete with North Dakota for the Big Sky title. - EWU ATHLETICS
  • EWU Athletics
  • Eastern Washington junior quarterback Gage Gubrud will need to have another huge year to help the Eagles compete with North Dakota for the Big Sky title.

Despite the loss of Cooper Kupp, now a Los Angeles Rams receiver, and Pac 12-bound former coach Beau Baldwin (now offensive coordinator at Cal), both the Big Sky media and coaches expect Eastern Washington to be a powerhouse again this year in the conference.

On Tuesday at the Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff in Utah, the Eagles were picked to finish second by both writers and the conference coaches, with North Dakota chosen to win the conference in both polls.

Last year, the Eagles and North Dakota's Fighting Hawks tied for the Big Sky championship, with both teams going 8-0 and never facing off on the field. This year, the teams play Nov. 11 at North Dakota in what could be a game for conference supremacy.

The only surprise in the polls might be how little the media or conference coaches expect the loss of the Eagles' best player and longtime head coach to affect the team's success. New head coach Aaron Best has five new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, while the Eagles' defensive staff returns intact.

While the offensive coaches are new, Eastern returns plenty of experience on the field, including 26 letter-winners on defense and 23 on offense — most notably star quarterback Gage Gubrud, who was a surprise finalist for the Walter Payton Award, handed out to the Football Championship Subdivision's most valuable player.

The junior QB was picked as preseason Offensive Player of the Year at the Big Sky meeting, while defenders Albert Havili and Mitch Fettig also earned preseason all-league nods.

The Eagles open their season on Sept. 2 with a game at Texas Tech; they'll try to take down a Division I foe for the second straight year after beating Washington State in 2016.
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Indoor Football League's Spokane Empire won't return next season

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 3:24 PM

The Empire's demise likely means the end of indoor football in Spokane, at least for now. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • The Empire's demise likely means the end of indoor football in Spokane, at least for now.

The Spokane Empire’s 2017 season ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The other two incarnations of Spokane’s indoor football teams won league championships in their inaugural seasons. After switching leagues in 2016, the Empire looked to win an inaugural title again for a third time. But Sioux Falls beat them 55-34 in the final.

The Empire’s off-the-field woes were much worse. Revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships were declining. Karen Kiehl, the Empire's former director of operations, says that an indoor football team is content just to break even, and the Empire didn’t. On Wednesday, the team’s owners announced that they would not return for the 2018 season.

In a press release, the owners said they will spend the season looking to establish more local sponsors or finding someone to purchase the team, which could mean another league switch, relocation or the end of indoor football in Spokane. The Empire’s future is unclear.

Despite 12 wins in their first Indoor Football League season, the Empire was struggling. They were forced to change names, from the Spokane Shock, because the Arena Football League, the previous league they played in, owned the name and wanted $250,000 for it, Kiehl says. They decided to save the money and change names.

Kiehl says she believes the name change hurt the organization, but they didn't have much of a choice, and moving from the AFL to the IFL was the right move.

“We went from big markets like San Jose and Philadelphia to more places like Des Moines, Iowa,” she says. “That business model was more sustainable.”

Kiehl says Spokane did not fit in with the AFL, which now only has five teams, all of which are based in much larger cities, all in the Eastern time zone.

The IFL has nine teams — 10 before Wednesday’s announcement — in cities of comparable size to Spokane, but the switch did not solve their problems. Spokane was still geographically isolated from the others and, Kiehl says, the perception among fans was that they switched to a lesser league, so fewer people cared to buy tickets.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mariners Briefing: Pitching woes leave little optimism in once-promising season

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 1:29 PM

King Felix has been less than regal this year, and his fellow Mariners have scuffled to a below-.500 season so far.
  • King Felix has been less than regal this year, and his fellow Mariners have scuffled to a below-.500 season so far.

Being an approximate .500 baseball team for half of a season will offer fair arguments for both optimism and pessimism. The 41-44 Mariners have found a way to showcase that duality in any given series, let alone any given week.

Two games into their mid-season homestand, the Mariners pitching has offered little parting thoughts that this high-wire act will result in playoff baseball. They didn't do so on the mound, with Felix Hernandez offering yet another multi-homer game on the Fourth of July. But the news off of the diamond has been far less reassuring.

News came out last week that sidelined starter Drew Smyly wouldn't be throwing a single pitch this year. Smyly opted for Tommy John surgery after dealing with yet another setback in his recovery from an elbow injury that progressed to a torn UCL. Smyly's recovery will be finished long after his one year contract with the Mariners will expire.

And then on July 4th it was revealed that Hisashi Iwakuma received platement-rich plasma treatment and a cortisone shot in his shoulder after his bullpen session. Iwakuma's return is now two weeks later than initially projected, and the soonest possible return is mid August.

If Iwakuma doesn't return, it's hard to see the Mariners maintaining their .482 winning percentage, let alone improving upon it. And that's a shame, considering the commendable efforts by Ariel Miranda, the return to form of James Paxton and the promising replacement starts by rookie Andrew Moore.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Mariners Briefing: June's hot bats keeping M's afloat

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Rookie outfielder Ben Gamel, hitting .346, has been a pleasant surprise for the Mariners this season.
  • Rookie outfielder Ben Gamel, hitting .346, has been a pleasant surprise for the Mariners this season.

A month ago, things weren't looking so good for the Seattle Mariners. After five losses in six East Coast games against the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox, the Mariners' injury woes seemed insurmountable.

The M's were seven games under .500, in the AL West cellar, and nearly had the American League's worst record. With Felix Hernandez, Hishashi Iwakuma and James Paxton on the disabled list, the back of the rotation — Ariel Miranda and Yovanni Gallardo — was asked to keep the USS Mariner afloat.

With a strong showing in Colorado to finish May and start June, the Mariners went on a torrid 10-4 run, beating the Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins. Mike Zunino has had himself quite a month, hitting nine home runs and driving in 30 runs (most ever in a month for a Mariners catcher). Zunino entered the month hitting an abysmal .190, which has since risen to .247. Over that span, he's nearly doubled his on-base plus slugging percentage to .802 (on average, a dependable everyday player should be around .700).

But the most satisfying part of the Mariners' resurgence has been the trio of rookie outfielders — Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia and Mitch Haniger. Last year's outfield was the glaring weakness of a surprisingly average team. Heading into this season, it was hoped that maybe one of the three young outfielders could pair with veteran Jarrod Dyson to make a halfway respectable outfield. Instead, the three are pushing Dyson out of playing time.

In the absence of high-average leadoff hitter, shortstop Jean Segura, Gamel leads the Mariners with a .394 average for the month of June. After an oblique injury sidelined him for more than a month, Haniger was immediately injected into the No. 2 spot and has been regaining his timing on the fly; he hasn't quite seen his average and power return to his hot opening to the season, but has remained a high on-base-percentage guy who becomes a table-setter for power bats Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.

The Mariners started their homestand with a four-game sweep of the up-and-down Detroit Tigers. They were able to stay in games, proving their lineup's ability to get hot and win games late. The most notable was in the sixth inning against Justin Verlander, who was at the time throwing a perfect game. The Mariners piled on seven runs in the sixth and seventh against  Verlander and the Tigers.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Zags' Collins, Williams-Goss hear their names called during NBA draft

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 11:53 AM

Zach Collins was the No. 10 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, going from Sacramento to Portland in a trade. - GU ATHLETICS
  • GU Athletics
  • Zach Collins was the No. 10 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, going from Sacramento to Portland in a trade.

In a season of new milestones, add another to the list for Gonzaga men's basketball. Freshman phenom Zach Collins became the first one-and-done player in program history, getting drafted by the Sacramento Kings — then traded to the Portland Trail Blazers — with the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.

Nigel Williams-Goss joined the party a few hours later as the Utah Jazz selected him in the second round with 55th overall pick. This is the first time in 46 years that two Zags players were drafted the same night. In 1971, Howard Burford and Bill Quigg were drafted in the 11th and 15th rounds(!). 2002 saw Dan Dickau and international recruit Mario Kasan drafted, but Kasan was mired in contract controversies during his recruitment and never suited up for the Bulldogs.

Portland took advantage of their stockpile of picks, trading their 15th and 20th to move up and take Collins. It's an interesting move for the 41-41 team, as Collins immediately slots in as a back-up to Jusuf Nurkić, with the potential to learn the power forward position and play alongside him.

Collins' draft profile was interesting due to his limited minutes at Gonzaga. The 7-footer is considered the most NBA-ready rookie big man on defense by many scouts, and already possesses a diverse repertoire of post moves. Scouts also were excited by his surprising adeptness around the perimeter, where Collins shot 47 percent last year.

Collins could prove to be a major boon for the Blazers moving forward in this new-look NBA. If he can add strength without compromising his quickness, Collins could be a rare center who is able to defend against guards off of defensive switches. Offensively, he has shown that he can make 18-plus foot shots — essential in a 3-and-D league — albeit in an extremely small sample size (14 for 27, 51.9 percent).

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