Unfortunately, rivalry games don’t always live up to the hype. But this was not one of those occasions.
This was the rivalry game that came down to the last play and the final second on the clock. The kind that causes one team to storm the field and celebrate such a marginal victory, and the other to grapple with the disappointment that comes with being so close.
After two fourth-quarter lead changes and some clutch plays on Friday night, it was the West Valley Eagles who walked away with a 30-27 victory at East Valley in Great Northern League football action.
“I thought it was a classically good, close rivalry game,” Knights coach Adam Fisher said. “It was pretty outstanding.”
It was Eagles do-it-all quarterback Tyler Stavnes who nailed the 19-yard field goal as time expired and the Eagles (6-1 overall, 4-0 GNL) rushed onto the field to celebrate.
“Obviously, when you come down to 1 second and a field goal – that’s pretty close,” Fisher said.
It didn’t actually become that close, however, until the final quarter.
Each team scored in the first – West Valley on Chance Roullier’s short reception from Stavnes, which he turned into a 75-yard touchdown play, and East Valley (5-2, 2-2) on the very next play, when Graden George returned the kickoff 93 yards to pull the Knights even.
The Eagles added a touchdown with a failed PAT attempt in the second, and another in the third, to take a 19-7 lead into the final quarter.
That’s when the Knights – who fumbled the ball six times in the game and lost possession on four of those – woke up.
Quarterback JT Phelan, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 151 yards, opened the fourth quarter with a 26-yard TD pass to Gage Burland, and the two hooked up again midway through the quarter to give the Knights their first – and only – lead of the game at 20-19.
“I’m proud of our kids on how they battled back,” Fisher said. “We just gave up some big plays. We needed to get Terrance Duke down. He’s a good player, and he looked even better with us missing a lot of tackles.”
Duke finished with four carries and 34 rushing yards for the Eagles, but he racked up 159 receiving yards on three receptions – which included a 19-yard TD run in the third quarter and a 66-yard TD pass play that put the Eagles up 27-20 with 3:50 remaining in the game.
“I don’t think we played our best,” Eagles coach Craig Whitney said. “That’s a tribute to them. They exposed us in some places, so my hat is off to Adam and his squad. There’s a reason we didn’t play that well, and they were the reason. Both teams wanted it … and I’m just thankful that we came out on top.”