Well something had to give.
Two teams with identical 0-5 records, both coming off blow-out losses, and each desperate to keep their season from spiraling into a winless hole. Hanford, with the Mid-Columba Conference’s worst defense, versus Southridge, the team with the league’s worst offense battling for redemption and respectability.
So it was fitting when that this game ended in the most spectacular fashion possible.
Southridge quarterback Connor Grigg somehow found Andrew Stayrook in a crowded corner at the back of the end zone with a 35-yard prayer as time ran out in the fourth quarter to give the Suns a 41-38 win over Hanford at Fran Rish Stadium.
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Gregg and Stayrook’s heroics were necessary only because Hanford had taken a 38-35 lead on sophomore quarterback Desmond Samples 2-yard run with only 1:23 left in the game.
In the last 1:44 Southridge went from looking almost certain winners, to almost certain losers, to winners again.
The bizarre series of events began with the Suns leading 35-31 and facing a fourth-and-14 from their own 39 with 1:44 left in the game. Southridge needed nothing more than a clean punt to pin Hanford deep in its own territory with not much more than a minute to play.
But a bad snap sailed over punter Hunter Spiva’s head. Spiva retrieved the ball but was tackled at the Southridge eight, giving Hanford a first and goal from there.
Junior running back Elwood Davis bulled his way to the two, and Samples scored on the next play. Woody Page’s extra point put Hanford up 38-35 with just 1:23 left.
Southridge’s sophomore Samuel Kori appeared to give the Suns a chance when he returned the Hanford kickoff to midfield, but a penalty pushed Southridge all the way back to the Suns’ 15, where they took over with 1:13 to play.
Grigg completed four passes to quickly move the Suns to the Hanford 47 then hit Brandon Zane with a 12-yarder to the 35 with only 3.4 seconds left. Southridge took its final timeout to talk about one, last desperate heave into the end zone.
The Suns receivers flooded the right side of the end zone and Grigg’s pass floated over several Hanford defenders, who all appeared to have the play well covered, into the arms of Stayrook who made the catch sliding on his knees.
To their credit, the opportunistic Falcons put themselves in a position to win by putting the brakes on a Southridge flurry in the first quarter that looked like it might turn the game into a blow out early.
The suns marched 59 yards in six plays on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead on Stayrook’s 1-yard TD run with 8:12 left in the first quarter.
Hanford closed the gap to 7-6 when Taren Rose picked up a fumbled snap on a Southridge punt and two yards into the end zone for the Falcons first score.
Stayrook scored again on a 45 yard run, and Tanner Pope returned the first of two interceptions back 45 yards for a score to put the Suns up 21-6.
Hanford returned the favor when Kendall Watson intercepted Grigg and returned the ball 45 yards to the Suns’ six inside the final minute of the first half. Samples scored from there to pull the Falcons to close the gap to 21-12 with just seven seconds left in the first half.
Samples threw two touchdown passes, 43 yards to David Juergens and 36 yards to Watson, and ran 23 yards for a third TD as the Falcons dominated the third quarter. Southridge’s Michael Bibe scored on a 49-yard pass from Grigg in the third quarter.
Stayrook scored on a three-yard run with 10:55 left in the game to ut Southridge up 35-31 to set up the wild finish.