Grizzlies come back for victory
Appeal News Service
RENO – Galena football coach Steve Struzyk told his defense it needed to stop North Valleys’ running game if the Grizzlies wanted to continue their run for the Northern 4A title.
“If you’re looking at those running backs in the backfield, you’re pretty much screwed,” Struzyk said about the Panthers’ offensive formation. “You have to keep an eye on the nose guards and they weren’t doing that in the first half.”
Struzyk’s troops responded big in the second half, especially in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the game, to erase a 6-point halftime deficit with two touchdowns off turnovers.
The Grizzlies forced two fumbles, one leading to a touchdown run and the other ending a threatening Panther drive, to stop North Valleys, 18-14, Friday night in the first round of the Northern 4A playoffs.
“The defense kind of settled down a bit in the second half. That’s a tough offense to practice,” Struzyk said. “They got guys running everywhere. North Valleys played great. They’re a physical team. We knew it going in it was going to be tough.”
Galena can even its score with Reed after losing a nail-biter last week at Galena. The Grizzlies will play the Raiders, a 37-0 winner over Carson, in next Friday’s semifinal. The winner advances to the title game in two weeks at Damonte Ranch.
Struzyk said the original game plan was to push the running game with Jimmy Sargent and Pete Lazzari. Although Galena tallied 142 yards on the ground, Struzyk said Galena had trouble handling North Valleys’ defense.
“We couldn’t run the ball,” Struzyk said. “They were physical up front and we tried for three quarters to run the football but we could not block their linebackers. Their linebackers hit hard and are athletic. We had some slips early. The kids just hung in there for four quarters tonight.”
Despite completing seven passes for 77 yards, Galena quarterback Jacob Anderson threw an interception with 2:34 left in the game.
“That was game over in our mind,” Struzyk said of the interception.
All North Valleys needed to do was hold onto the ball and run down the clock. Instead, the Panthers’ top running back, Chris Castellanos, slipped in the backfield on the first play and Levi Stafford fell on the loose ball on the Panthers’ 24 yard line.
Sargent carried the Grizzlies with five carries in the ensuing series, including the game-winning, 3-yard touchdown run with 1:04 left in the game.
Sargent, who led Galena with 116 yards on 30 carries, credited his offensive line for opening holes against a physical North Valleys defense. The line also allowed Lazzari to gain 40 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 14-12 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“It’s a whole team effort. I thrive off of the offensive line,” Sargent said. “That (turnovers) definitely helped. Our defense made key plays to cause those turnovers.”
With two timeouts left, the Panthers still had time to march down the field and reverse the score.
After starting on its own 20 yard line, North Valleys banked on Robert Lowry’s 13-yard completion and Castellanos’ 22-yard run to Galena’s 45 yard line with 41 seconds left. Lowry finished the game completing 3 of 10 passes for 80 yards.
Castellanos, who led the game with 159 yards on 26 carries, coughed up his second fumble on the next play and Jesse Snodgrass ran it back 23 yards to seal the game.
The Grizzlies took advantage of a fumbled snap to score its first touchdown of the game.
William Durden recovered the ball, setting up Sargent’s 1-yard run with 1:56 left in the first quarter.
Castellanos carried the ball seven times for 51 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Justen Gomes, who finished the game with 51 yards on nine carries, scored the next touchdown from 10 yards out to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead going into halftime.
Archie Kovich rushed for 77 yards on seven carries.