Southridge coach Tony Reiboldt had some tough decisions coming into this season, namely whom was going to start at quarterback.
Conner Grigg lost that battle to Jair Ealy-Thomas. However, it was easy to see Friday night why Reiboldt struggled with his decision.
Ealy-Thomas was lost for the year last week after straining his medial collateral ligament in his knee in the Suns loss to Chiawana, thrusting Grigg into the starting role.
And it was not just any game, but a game that had playoff implications for the Suns.
Grigg was more than up to the task, completing 14 of 25 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns as Southridge clinched a playoff spot with a 26-0 win over Hanford at Fran Rish Stadium.
It was good to get out there and show what I could do, Grigg said. I think we did a pretty good job tonight. Southridge 5-4, 3-4, will host Mount Spokane next Friday night at 5 p.m. at Lampson Stadium. Meanwhile, Hanford (2-7, 1-6) was eliminated from the playoffs and will play a cross-over game next week.
It always makes it easier when you take care of your business, Reiboldt said. Considering what we dealt with this week, I think our guys did a great job.
Grigg was not the only addition into the lineup. He was being supported by a make-shift offensive line that was missing three of its starters. But it was hard to tell any of them were out of position.
The Suns started off by running through the guts of the Hanford defense and finished off the second half with array of big plays in the passing game.
They started loading the box and left us with man-on-man coverage and Conner delivered the mail, Reiboldt said. Kadin Diaz, one of the top rushers in the Mid-Columbia Conference had another big night and got the offense going early. In the first half he had 11 carries for 78 yards and helped the Suns to a 9-0 halftime lead. Diaz finished with 21 carries 115 yards. One of those runs was a 31-yard burst on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. From there, the Hanford defense kept him in check putting the pressure on Grigg to makes some plays.
And that he did.
After Diazs big run, Grigg hit Brenden Kelly on a 47-yard touchdown play to make the score 16-0. He connected with Kelly later in the second half on a 12-yard touchdown play that pushed the lead to 26-0.
I settled down a little in the second half and we executed better, said Grigg, who also had a 51-yard touchdown run in the first half.
The offense that Grigg and Diaz provided was more than enough for a stout Suns defense that was in control all night.
The Falcons, who have struggled offensively all season, crossed midfield just twice in the game and did not get inside the Suns 30-yard line.
I think we did a great job against their offense and it should help us for next week, Reiboldt said.
Southridge 6 3 17 0 26
Hanford 0 0 0 0 0
S - Conner Grigg 51 run (Nate Newbry kick)
Rushing -- S, Kadin Diaz 21-115, Grigg 4-60, Masceo Ealy-Thomas 3-16, Kyle Harvey 3-(minus-3), Team 3-2; H, Malik Slack 10-53, Aaron Enderlin 9-(minus-9), Will Bishop 4-26, Elwood Davis 4-minus-1).
Passing -- S, Grigg 14-25-0-212; H, Enderlin 7-19-2-84.
Receiving -- S, Gonzales 4-77, Kelly 4-74, Ealy-Thomas 4-63, Diaz 2-12; H, Jordan Reyes 2-3, Jake Craig 1-18, Tyler Cowen 3-38, Daymien Marks 1-25.