TURNER — If this was a building year for Leavitt football, it’s safe to say the Hornets can cut the ribbon.
Led by Mitchel Davis’ two interceptions and the tireless tackling of Will Parkin, Taylor Woodbury and Chandler Lajoie, Leavitt shut out explosive Spruce Mountain in the second half Saturday night and walked away with a 28-14 win at Libby Field.
Leavitt (7-1) clinched its second consecutive Campbell Conference regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the Class C West playoffs. The Hornets will host Lake Region on Friday night. No. 2 Spruce Mountain (7-1) will be home against Mountain Valley.
“We’re just a different team now than we were Week 1,” Parkin said. “There were some times that we gave up big plays, but we didn’t let our heads down. We just came right back, and it worked out for us in the end.”
It was the 100th head coaching win for Leavitt’s Mike Hathaway.
Leavitt trailed 14-6 midway through the second quarter before Levi Craig hit Gabe Seeley for a 41-yard touchdown. Craig’s point-after rush failed.
Seeley’s interception deep in Leavitt territory kept it a 14-12 game at the half.
No turnover was larger than Davis’ over-the-shoulder grab on the third play out of the locker room. Davis cradled Peter Theriault’s floater toward Andrew Darling in the left flat and took it 30 yards the other way to the Phoenix 25.
“Coming out from halftime down two, we needed a big play,” said the 6-foot-5 Davis. “I just tried to catch it. I just saw it, jumped, and ended up catching it. It was a good day.”
Davis also blocked an extra point and caught a two-point conversion pass.
Leavitt needed only five plays to cash in the go-ahead touchdown. After Craig riddled the Spruce secondary for 180 yards in the first half, the drive was exclusively on the ground, capped by Julian Kirouac’s 2-yard plunge. Billy Bedard caught the conversion pass for a 20-14 advantage.
The next Spruce Mountain drive reached the Leavitt 24, but middle linebacker Parkin stuffed Theriault’s attempted sneak on fourth-and-inches.
Spruce Mountain notched only one first down on its next two series, and Leavitt tucked an insurance TD between them. Craig (13 for 16, 238 yards) found Max Green for 38 yards to set up Isaiah Calder’s 4-yard burst with 7:39 to go.
“We make adjustments at halftime and the kids do a good job executing. Sometimes it looks great on the board, but it doesn’t matter unless the kids execute on the field,” Hathaway said. “They’re smart. A lot of times it’s two-way talking about what we see on the field and then getting things done. The tempo of the game in the first half was pretty fast, and I think our guys are in pretty good condition to keep up that pace.”
Davis applied the exclamation point, making a leaping interception in the end zone with 1:41 left.
“We can’t turn the ball over. They’re too good to give them extra chances,” Spruce Mountain coach Walter Polky said. “They’re a championship team over there. They have tradition. They know how to play in these big games. We’re still building to that. They don’t hurt themselves.”
Leavitt jumped out early on Craig’s 35-yard bomb to Green for a 6-0 lead.
The Phoenix marched 65 yards to tie it, 32 of those by Darling on an option play. Theriault ran it in from a yard out in the final minute of the opening quarter.
“They’ve got some great players over there,” Parkin said. “There isn’t any one you can’t take seriously, because they’re all good players.”
Theriault’s 28-yard run and a completion to Vigue for the same distance led to Vigue’s 2-yard TD. The senior tailback also ran it in for two points and a 14-6 lead with 8:05 to go in the half.
James Ouellette made a diving interception at the Leavitt 13 to keep momentum in the Phoenix’s corner, but Davis and Parkin then turned in solo stops during a crucial three-and-out for the Hornets.
“We have to, in crunch time, slow down,” Polky said. “The kids have done a great job this year. We’re still getting there. That’s the great thing about having this team in our conference is that they set a bar that you have to beat, and they don’t cheat you. They make you earn it.”
Vigue led Spruce Mountain with 15 carries for 69 yards and four catches for 75 more. Craig (74 yards) and Kirouac (69) fueled the Hornets’ underrated running game.
Seven straight wins ensured that the road to the state game will go through the defending champions’ backyard.
“I know for us the expectation was to finish first, but I think a lot of people expected a drop-off with what we graduated,” Hathaway said. “We kind of set a goal to get better every week.”