Spanish Springs blocked a punt, recovered it and fumbled the return back at midfield. It roughed the punter twice, once when it returned the kick for a touchdown and another when the Grizz faced a fourth-and-39. For good measure, Spanish Springs also roughed the Galena passer once and its receivers had five drops, two of which could have gone for touchdowns with a safe snag.
Despite all those woes, Spanish Springs managed to pull out a 20-6 win at Galena in a non-league gridiron affair. The victory can be directly attributed to a stellar defensive outing by the SSHS gridders. Despite Galena owning a nearly 3-to-1 time of possession advantage, the Cougars' defense remained resilient, giving up just one score, a second-quarter touchdown.
Spanish Springs never let Galena get going on the ground and it racked up six sacks en route to victory.
"We couldn't have played much worse in two phases of the game," Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. "Luckily, in the third phase, defense, we played an 'A' game. Special teams hurt us. We could not get our defense off the field. Offensively, we had no rhythm. Galena must have run 80 plays."
The two teams were locked up in a 6-6 tie early in the fourth quarter. The Spanish Springs defense forced Galena into a fourth-and-22 and the Grizzlies punted. That set up the Cougars with a first-and-10 from their own 38-yard line. On the first play of the possession, Spanish Springs junior running back Jeff Jurgensmeier found a seam and raced 62 yards to the end zone for a go-ahead score, one that proved to be the game-winner.
The extra-point kick was good and Spanish Springs found itself on top 13-6 with 9:13 to go in the contest.
Jurgensmeier had 16 carries for 134 rushing yards. The rest of the SSHS ball carriers had nine carries for 36 yards.
"It was fun to be back and contribute," said Jurgensmeier, who had not played since leaving in the first possession of the Cougars' Week 2 win at Damonte Ranch. "On the touchdown run, at first, it looked like the hole was gone. But then I saw the cutback, so I cut it back and took it to the house. Our line did a great job on that play."
On the following Galena possession, Spanish Springs put the game away. Cougars defensive back Blake Nauman stepped in front of a Brock Raggio pass, picked it off and returned it 27 yards across the goal line for a touchdown at the 7:23 mark of the final quarter. That pushed the visitors ahead 20-6 and accounted for the final margin.
Galena did not even drive into Spanish Springs territory through the remainder of the game as the Spanish Springs defense rendered the Grizz offense helpless in the final seven-plus minutes.
For much of the game, Spanish Springs fans probably wondered if a win was in the cards. The Cougars had plenty of opportunities to create some distance in the score. Late in the third quarter, the Spanish Springs offense seemed to finally find some rhythm. A balanced drive of run and pass set the Cougars up with a first-and-goal on the Galena 3-yard line.
That's when the Sparks school started going backward. Galena stopped a run for no gain. Spanish Springs snapped a ball high over QB Hunter Fralick's head that went for a loss of 15. The Grizz also recorded a sack. Finally the Cougars faced a fourth-and-goal from the 27.
Still, Fralick found his favorite target, senior receiver Vance Lively, in single coverage for a 27-yard touchdown. However, a holding call wiped away the score and forced the guests to punt.
Three plays later, the Spanish Springs defense forced a Galena punt which Lively proceeded to take to the house for a score. However, a roughing the punter took that score off the board.
"That stuff is part of the game," Lively said. "Sometimes, you face a lot of adversity, but it's about how you deal with it. It was good to bounce back. We pulled it out and that's what counts the most."
The Cougars had their woes in the first half as well. With the scoreboard reading 0-0, Spanish Springs faced plenty of adversity in a stretch that bridged the first and second quarters. Spanish Springs forced a Galena punt on a fourth-and-39, but the Cougars roughed the punter and gave the hosts an automatic first down. Shortly thereafter, Galena drove down field for a 26-yard field goal try. The kick was blocked. SSHS senior Ryder Lowry scooped up the football, returned it to midfield, but then fumbled it right back to Galena and the Spanish Springs defense was forced to stay on the field.
"That was the key to the game," Galena coach Steve Struzyk said. "We had our opportunities. All week we worked on executing and we didn't get it done. We have to get better.
"Spanish Springs is a playoff-caliber team. We did improve from last week. That's what counts. We've just got to keep getting better."
Spanish Springs eventually broke the 0-0 tie on a play where Fralick fumbled the snap under center, but picked up the bouncing pigskin, spun out of a tackle and rushed three yards across the goal line for the game's first score. That PAT kick failed, but the scoreboard read 6-0 with 3:33 left before halftime.
Galena (2-2) needed just 25 seconds to post a game-tying touchdown. On the ensuing drive, the Grizz got a 25-yard run and a 32-yard TD pass from Raggio to Chaz Clark. Spanish Springs blocked the extra-point kick, keeping the game at a 6-6 score.
Fralick returned under center for Spanish Springs after sitting out last week while nursing a sore ankle, but his numbers were hurt by the insecure hands of SSHS receivers. He finished 8-of-19 for 115 yards. Lowry caught two balls for 74 yards.
Spanish Springs (3-1) did manage to rebound from last week's 28-6 road loss at Inderkum of Sacramento, with a win. However, it has a tough test next week when it hosts traditionally tough Douglas. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.