The Spanish Springs Cougars saw that happen for them Friday night, but it was not enough as Damonte Ranch pulled out a stunning 49-42 Northern 4A League win. The victory snapped a 14-game losing skid for Damonte Ranch, which had not won since late in the 2009 season.
Spanish Springs (3-2, 2-1) pulled into a 42-42 tie when Cougars quarterback Hunter Fralick found tight end Vinny Agliolo wide open over the middle of the field for a 17-yard touchdown with just over a minute left in the conference clash.
Damonte Ranch quarterback Drew Smith does not usually play on the kick return team, but the Mustangs coaching staff put its top play maker back deep on the ensuing sequence and it paid off. Smith returned the kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and the game-winning score.
“Our players were not ready tonight,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “They thought this was the Damonte Ranch team that didn’t care and didn’t win games. And that’s not who Damonte Ranch is anymore.
“Right now, we’re OK with being as good as we’ve been in the past. And that’s not good enough.”
The Mustangs’ victory left a sour taste in the mouths of Spanish Springs players who saw a career night by senior running back Conrad Tanyi go for naught. He racked up 317 yards on 30 carries.
On the flip side, Damonte Ranch (1-3, 1-2) players and fans were euphoric after the Mustangs pulled out the victory considering fourth-quarter leads had slipped away twice in the final minutes of games earlier this season.
“That’s like the third time we’ve played a really tight one into the fourth quarter and tonight we finished,” Damonte Ranch coach Tony Amantia said. “That’s huge to continue to get these kids to believe in what we’re doing … I’m just so happy for these kids. That ends our losing streak.”
In spite of all that, Spanish Springs did give itself a late shot to force overtime. The Cougars took over at midfield with 45 seconds to go in the game. They drove into the red zone, but a sack and two incompletions that fell harmlessly into the end zone washed away any SSHS comeback hopes.
Despite a two-touchdown halftime deficit, Damonte Ranch was unfazed. The Mustangs scored on their first drive of the second half. A 9-yard TD run by Jeff Jurgensmeier got the hosts within 7, 28-21.
Jurgensmeier finished with 150 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Then, after Spanish Springs drove to the Damonte 30, the Mustangs forced a fumble and stole possession. Two plays after the turnover, Smith broke free on a keeper and sprinted 71 yards to the end zone for a game-tying touchdown. The score was 28-28 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.
Smith wound up with 117 yards on 15 rushes.
“The mistakes we made were forced by Damonte. They played harder and faster and wanted to win,” Hare said.
Damonte kept the momentum. It forced a three-and-out on the next SSHS possession and then put together another long drive, 62 yards. Jurgensmeier had a 2-yard TD run to conclude the go-ahead drive that left the Mustangs clinging to a 35-28 advantage. The drive looked dead before Sean Pinching bobbled the pigskin but held on while falling down for a 34-yard reception down to the 2.
“We didn’t come out of halftime ready to play,” Hare said. “We thought they’d roll over and lay down. They didn’t. we have to play 48 minutes.
The Spanish Springs offense finally got something going in the second half. It went 66 yards on seven plays for a tying score, a 2-yard Tanyi TD run at the fourth quarter’s 7:21 mark to make it 35-35.
The back-and-forth affair continued as Smith hooked up with Matt Anderson for a 61-yard Mustangs touchdown reception with 2:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Damonte Ranch scored on all but one of its second-half possessions.
“We just got some things going on offense in the second half,” Amantia said. “You have to be able to run the football to win in high school football and I thought we controlled the front in the second half.”
The first half was a different story. Spanish Springs had all the momentum at halftime.
Deadlocked at 14-14, early in the second quarter, Spanish Springs took control. The Cougars used a four-play, 70-yard drive to take a 21-14 lead with 9:32 remaining in the second quarter. The big play came on a 36-yard scoring strike from Fralick to wideout Vance Lively.
The two teams traded scoreless possessions and punts for much of the next nine minutes. However, Spanish Springs was able to add another score in the final minute of the first half. The Cougars needed 2:40 to go 60 yards and march into the end zone again. Tanyi capped the key drive with a 3-yard touchdown run 45 seconds before halftime and the guests had a 28-14 edge at the intermission.
Damonte Ranch got on the scoreboard first. The Mustangs marched 80 yards on nine plays and scored when Carl Long got over the goal line from a yard out at the 4:45 mark of the first quarter.
Unfortunately for the hosts, it took Spanish Springs just three plays to answer. That answer was a 10-yard Cole Shaeffer scoring scamper with 3:52 to go in the first quarter. Shaeffer’s run came after runs of 52 and 25 by Tanyi.
The Spanish Springs defense forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing Damonte possession and then the Cougars’ offense went right back to work. This time the SSHS gridders needed only five plays to go 66 yards. Fralick found Troy Weller streaking down the sideline for a 25-yard connection. The scoreboard read 14-7 with 11:24 remaining in the second quarter.
It didn’t stay that way for long. On Damonte’s next possession, Jurgensmeier broke free on the Mustangs’ second play of the drive and ran 65 yards, away from the SSHS defense and into the end zone for a touchdown with 11:08 left in the second quarter.
Spanish Springs is at home Friday for a 7:30 p.m. Homecoming game against Reno.