Carson High's quest for the first 10-win season in school history came up short, and the Senators' outstanding season came to an unexpected end.
Galena scored on the third play of overtime, and then the Grizzlies stopped Carson five yards short of a potential game-winning score en route to a 14-7 victory Friday night in the Northern 4A regional semifinals at Carson High.
The loss snapped Carson's six-game winning streak and gave the Senators a 9-3 season, one of the best in school history.
"The kids played their hearts out," Carson coach Blair Roman said. "Give Galena credit. They played a helluva game. I said earlier this year that they had the most talent and tonight they showed it. They are finally putting it together."
After the teams slugged their way to a 7-all tie in regulation in the defensive struggle, Galena got the first opportunity to punch it in from the 10-yard line.
Quarterback Beau Bickel was thrown for a 1-yard loss by Justin Barlow and Luke Carter on the first play. On second down, Eric Howsley (38 carries, 158 yards) got the ball to the 9. On third down, Bickel drilled a pass to Garrett Shutt, who made a diving catch in the right corner of the end zone. Howsley added the extra point to make it 14-7.
"It's big to score first to put pressure on them," Galena coach Steve Struzyk said. "We'd been trying to get the ball to him (Shutt) all night. Beau put it in the right spot."
Carson was called for running into the kicker on the extra point, forcing the Senators to start from the 15 instead of the 10.
Dylan Sawyers (17 carries, 84 yards) carried around the left side for nine yards down to the 6. A pair of 2-yard runs left Carson with a fourth-and-goal from the 2. Carson elected to run Sawyers wide left and he never was able to turn the corner, as Howsley tripped him up at the 5.
Carson players slumped to the ground in disbelief, while Galena players jumped for joy.
"Dylan made a lot of big plays all year," Roman said. "I wanted to put it in his hands."
The Senators had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Ean Witter's 38-yard field goal attempt was wide right as time expired.
The Senators had driven from their own 23 to Galena's 20 on the strength of two Blake Plattsmier to Witter completions totaling 34 yards and a 12-yard pass from Plattsmier to Luke Carter. After a penalty on Carson and a 5-yard gain by Mark Sinnott to the Galena 20, Roman elected to let the clock run down to :04 before calling timeout and sending the field-goal team onto the field. Galena then called timeout in an attempt to freeze Witter.
Did Roman second-guess himself with regards to running out the clock?
"Yes and no," Roman said. "Ean has kicked 50 and 55-yard field goals in practice," Roman said. "I had complete confidence in him. He just got under it a little bit."
The Galena win avenged a 31-point loss to Carson back in mid-October. Galena improved defensively, holding Carson's attack, which averaged 41 points a contest to just a second-half touchdown by Mark Sinnott and 219 yards of total offense.
""It was a hard-fought game," said Struzyk. "Carson is a helluva team. We knew that going in.
"We went to a 4-4," Struzyk said. "Last time we played them we were in a 5-3. We got back to our base defense. The edges are so important. We wanted to take that away."
And, the Grizzlies were able to do just that. Sawyers was unable to get outside much of the night. He had two 11-yard gains, but other than that was bottled up much of the night.
"We keyed on him," Struzyk said. "You have to know where he's at all the time."
Carson had two good scoring chances get away in the opening quarter.
Luke Carter forced a fumble on Galena's first possession which Connor Beattie recovered at the Carson 46. Carson failed to chalk up a first down on the possession and punted the ball away.
After getting the ball back via a punt, Carson drove down to the Galena 31, but Plattsmier threw a ball down the middle which was intercepted.
"I underthrew it," Plattsmier said. "We saw what they were trying to do and adjusted."
Galena, thanks to the running of Howsley (6 carries, 44 yards on the drive) drove all the way down to the Carson 15, only to turn it over when Josh Peacock picked off a Bickel pass intended for Shutt in the end zone. It was Peacock's ninth interception of the season.
The second quarter consisted of two possessions, one for each team.
Carson held the ball for the first 5 minutes 41 seconds of the quarter but eventually punted the ball away.
Galena took over at its own 25 with 7:19 left on the clock and Carson never saw the ball again the rest of the half. The Grizzlies ran off 15 plays during the 75-yard drive with Howsley punching it over from the 1 to break the scoreless tie.
"They did a nice job controlling the ball and the line of scrimmage," Roman said. "I thought Howsley ran hard. There were times I thought we had him stop and he would slither for four or five more yards."
Carson's special teams helped set up the Senators' only score. Sophomore Logan Peternell partially blocked Howsley's punt giving the Senators the ball at their own 43.
Three runs by Sawyers, two for first downs, moved the ball to the Galena 20. Sinnott (11 carries, 55 yards) scored on the next play. Witter's PAT tied it at 7 with 1:36 left in the third period.
That set the stage for a scoreless fourth period and a dramatic overtime.