Galena gets a kick out of making regional finals
Appeal Sports Writer
SPARKS – In a game loaded with offense, the Northern 4A regional playoff semifinal contest between Galena and Reed was left hanging in the balance and depended on the leg of the Grizzlies’ senior kicker Chris Ewald.
“God, I hope I don’t miss,” Ewald said he was thinking as he trotted onto the field for a 27-yard attempt with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game.
Ewald smiled when he was asked if he was a bit nervous with the game’s outcome weighing on his shoulders.
“Yeah, definitely,” Ewald said. “But it was just a kick. It was like a practice try. I did what my coaches told me to do. They told me to keep my head down – and I did.”
The kick was good and the Grizzlies won, 39-36, Thursday at Reed High School. The victory improved Galena to 8-3 and moved it into its first regional championship game, to be played next Friday at Damonte Ranch against the winner of today’s Bishop Manogue-McQueen matchup.
“It felt great – awesome,” said the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Ewald. “There’s nothing better.”
Galena coach Steve Struzyk said Ewald had plenty of practice for the game-winning field goal.
“We’ve been working with the kid all year long,” Stuzyk said. “He had an older brother (Tyler Ewald) who made some big kicks for us in the past. We believed in (Chris). He has a strong leg. We worked with him all week, working on 20s and 40s. We’d make him do sprints until he’d make a field goal. He ended up making it.”
And it was a good thing, as the Raiders caught fire after going into halftime down 21-6, by dint of three touchdowns by Grizzlies running back Jimmy Sargent. The senior scored from 16, 2 and 1 yard out during a first half in which he ran for 115 yards on 19 carries.
Held to a pair of Freddy Bernal field goals over the first two quarters, Reed rallied behind quarterback Tony Maldonado, receiver Tyler Olivero and running back Jerel Clark.
Maldonado capped off a six-play opening drive with an 18-yard touchdown run and Clark ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 21-14.
Galena responded with an eight-play drive on its next possession. Grizzlies quarterback Jacob Anderson hit Steve Blackhart on for a 41-yard score. After a bad snap, Anderson found Jesse Snodgrass for a 2-point conversion and a 29-14 lead with 5:58 remaining in the third.
Reed wasted no time in coming back and a mere 51 seconds later, Maldonado hit Olivero for a 69-yard score and, after the 2-pointer failed, the Raiders were within 29-20.
Maldonado, who passed for more than 2,000 yards for Reed this season, went 11-of-20 for 228 yards and one touchdowns and added two more on the ground. Olivero had four receptions for 126 yards and a score, while Clark ran for 165 yards and a TD.
Reed outgained Galena, 498-424, in total yards, but Galena ultimately benefited from its big first half.
“It was a big bonus going into the fourth up (nine),” Struzyk said. “They had to score twice. We still had the ball with some time left. Jacob came up big with some big throws. (Jason) Parkinson and Blackhart were just huge for us.”
Sargent, who finished with 154 yards on 33 carries, scored his fourth touchdown of the night from 7 yards out to give Galena a 36-20 lead with 8:45 to go.
“The game plan going in was to keep them on the sideline,” Stuzyk said of Sargent’s clock-eating running. “The kid is amazing.”
So was Clark, who bolted in from 59 yards out with 7:44 remaining. Maldonado hit Kyle Shaney for a 2-pointer and Reed was back within eight at 36-28.
Reed’s defense held Galena to four plays on the next drive, (including a penalty) before marching downfield on an eight-play drive. After Maldonado hustled it in from the 1, he again hooked up with Shaney for a 2-pointer and the game was tied 36-36, with 3:03 left.
Which proved to be three minutes too long, as Galena calmly went on a nine-play drive before Ewald put it away. Anderson, who threw for 164 yards and connected on 13-of-16, found Parkinson three times on the last series. Parkinson finished the night with seven catches for 101 yards.
“The kids just play to the last horn,” Struzyk said. “They did the same thing against North Valleys (in last week’s first-round playoff game). The worst case scenario was we’d go to overtime and see what would happen. The way they were loading the box, we knew we had to throw a couple of times.”
Reed finished the season 10-2.
The winner of next Friday’s game will be the lone North team to advance to the state championships on the following week.
The South will be represented by three teams this year and the state championship game will be held in Las Vegas.