RENO - It was as if Jake Hess and the rest of the Galena High seniors didn't want their season to come to an end.
The Grizzlies, led by Hess' season-high 209 yards and three touchdowns, are back in the zone finals again after wiping out a 14-point deficit to edge Reno 31-24 in the 4A Northern Nevada football playoffs Friday night at Reno High School.
The win puts the defending champion Grizzlies back into the regional finals next week against High Desert champ McQueen, a 20-16 winner over Reed.
This game came down to a move by Galena coach Steve Struzyk to move Hess to tailback and Kyle Griffin to fullback, an energized performance by the offensive line of Jeff Belle, Bear Wallace, Levi Stafford, Max Landis, David Deal, Luke Hess and P.J. Tomaino plus a defense that turned the Huskies back three straight times in the second half.
"If you talk about the second half, you can't not talk about Jake Hess," Struzyk said. "He had a 200-yard game. Reno adjusted to our passing game, and Hess carried us. Jake, we knew he could do it. We saw they were giving us the off tackle that's why we decided to go with a bigger group.
"It feels great to be back (in the regional finals). We're just taking it one week at a time."
Hess was a monster. He scored on TD runs of 2, 20 and 8 yards, as Galena rallied from a 17-3 deficit, scoring on four of its five possessions in the final 24 minutes. He had some great blocking, but he also did a tremendous job of moving the pile and shaking off or running through tackles.
"I didn't want it to end," Hess said. "It takes heart. Our offensive line stepped up. We didn't want to turn our pads in (for the season). We just wanted to pound the ball, and our guys controlled the line of scrimmage."
That was music to Landis' ears.
Offensive linemen love to run block because they are inflicting the punishment and not taking it like they do pass protecting.
"I told the guys in the locker room we didn't want this to be the last 24 minutes of our careers," Landis said. "For sure, this was the best game the offensive line has played all year. We've had moments where we have jelled, but not like the second half tonight."
Yet it looked pretty bleak for Galena when Reno's Thomas Wood took Michael Parker's bouncing kickoff at the 1 and bolted 99 yards up the middle and along the right side of the field to score 15 seconds into the third quarter. Alex Papadakos' extra point made it 17-3.
That seemed to wake up the Grizzlies, and Struzyk made the backfield switch four plays into the ensuing possession.
Hess carried seven times for 39 yards on the drive, capping the 14-play 72-yard possession with a 2-yard run. Parker's kick made it 17-10.
Reno went quietly on its next drive, punting the ball away after recording just one first down.
The Grizzlies' offense needed only four plays to drive 63 yards for the score, and Hess was involved in three of them.
First it was Hess for 20 yards and a first down at the Reno 43. After a 4-yard gain, Jacob Anderson fired a 20-yard pass to P.J. Tomaino for a first down at the Huskies' 20. Hess scored on the next play. Parker's PAT tied the game at 17 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Then came a crucial sequence.
Facing a second-and-8 from his own 23, Glenn Wallace's pass was picked off by Tanner Golliglee at the Galena 48.
"We were in a basic zone coverage," Golliglee said. "If the guy went, I was supposed to go with him. The ball was a little underthrown. I turned and the ball was there."
"That was huge," Struzyk said. "It gave us some momentum."
The Grizzlies didn't waste the good field position. Hess picked up a key first down on a fourth-and-1 play, and that set up Anderson's 13-yard scoring pass to Steve Blackhart in the left corner of the end zone to give Galena the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
Galena's defense made another big stop, as Pete Lazzari batted down a third-down pass attempt by Wallace, forcing the Huskies to punt.
Hess took over on the next possession, carrying five times for 50 yards, and capping the 62-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring run. Anderson (10 of 20 for 166) completed a key third-down pass to Blackhart for a first down at the Reno 32, and Hess covered the rest of the distance on the next two carries for a 31-17 lead with 4:40 left.
Reno wasn't through, however.
Wallace went 4-for-6 passing for 84 yards on the next drive, including a 34-yard slant over the middle to Kyle Wirgler for a score with 3:12 left to cut the deficit to 31-24.
Galena kept pounding the ball, and ran out the clock, though it took a 2-yard run by Hess on a fourth-and-1 play to put Reno away.