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Spanish Springs rallies in fourth quarter to take down McQueen
by Dan Eckles
Oct 13, 2012 | 3422 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There haven't been many signature wins for a Spanish Springs program that has been mired largely in mediocrity during its 11 years of varsity football.

A 2004 last-second win on the road against eventual North champion Reed and a 2009 win over McQueen in a regular season finale that clinched the Cougars a home playoff game are about it when it comes to special wins for the SSHS gridders.

That 2009 win over McQueen was Spanish Springs' lone win over the Lancers. That all changed Friday night. The Cougars scored 29 second-half points and captured a 45-36 comeback home win over McQueen in a High Desert League donnybrook.

The Cougars' second win ever over traditionally tough McQueen had many magical moments but more importantly it keeps Spanish Springs (6-2, 2-1 HDL) in the hunt to achieve some lofty goals, like hosting a playoff game and winning a league title.

The loss dropped McQueen to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in conference clashes. The league losses have been devastating for the Lancers. They have been tied or led in the fourth quarter in all three -- against Reno, Reed and Spanish Springs -- but have still fallen short in each.

McQueen broke a 29-29 tie early in the fourth quarter. A 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Strebel saw the Lancers snare a 36-29 lead with 10:14 to go in the contest.

Spanish Springs responded. The Cougars marched 57 yards on the next possession and capped the drive with a 10-yard Hunter Fralick to Vance Lively touchdown. However, SSHS placekicker Henry Barrera missed his third extra-point kick of the night and the hosts still trailed 36-35.

That's when the Spanish Springs defense stepped up its game. On a fourth-and-1 play from its own 32, McQueen was stuffed, turning the ball over on downs.

But the Lancers' defense then held Spanish Springs and left Cougars coach Scott Hare with a tough decision, go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 5 or go for a 22-yard field goal with a struggling kicker. He put his faith in Barrera and it paid off. The senior booted the 22-yard try through the uprights and Spanish Springs had a lead 38-36.

Still, the McQueen offense had not been stopped many times and it had 3:36 of game clock to work with. However, a Lancers win was not in the cards. Spanish Springs cornerback Gannon Stevens, in 1-on-1 outside coverage, outplayed a McQueen receiver for the ball and pulled down an interception. He returned it 34 yards to the Lancers' 27-yard line.

"Our defense needed a stop," Stevens said. "Our coaches said play back and play smart. I was there to make a play. I felt like I was in bad position but I fought for the ball. I wanted to take it back all the way. I got some good blocks and still got pretty far."

On the next play, Spanish Springs junior running back Jeff Jurgensmeier ran up the middle for the 27-yard TD run. Barrera drilled the crucial extra point, accounting for the final two-score, nine-point margin.

McQueen got the ball back and drove into the red zone in the waning seconds but three incomplete passes and a sack nixed the drive and sealed the Lancers' losing fate.

"We couldn't get any stops. My hat's off to Spanish Springs. They made plays when they had to," McQueen coach Jim Snelling said. "Our kids played hard. They've played hard all year, but we've got to make plays. We couldn't make plays when we needed to."

It took the Cougars a while to click offensively, but once they did, they were hard to stop. Excluding a last-play kneel down, Spanish Springs scored on six of its seven second-half drives.

Fralick was phenomenal, turning in the best single-game passing performance for a Cougars signal caller. The junior torched the McQueen defense for a school-record 423 yards on 31-of-49 passing, tossing three touchdowns without a pick.

Lively hauled in 13 of those receptions and racked up 223 receiving yards, another school record.

"This is just our second win in school history over McQueen and the first for our senior class at any level so it's a very emotional win," Lively said. "Hunter and I are on that level where we communicate that well. We know where the ball is going to be. He knows I can make those kinds of catches."

The Cougars also saw Gehrig Parks catch five balls for 86 yards and Dallas Rohde snag eight catches for 76 yards.

Jurgensmeier had eight rushes 62 yards and two touchdowns. Spanish Springs finished with 567 yards of offense.

"We wanted to be balanced, but coming out of the gate McQueen was bringing a lot of people, which meant our receivers had to beat their DBs," Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. "After a while, we kind of figured that our receivers were better than their DBs, so we decided to throw it 49 times."

McQueen held a 22-16 lead at halftime. The two teams then proceeded to trade scores for much of the second half.

Spanish Springs took possession to start the third quarter and it took the Cougars less than a minute to go 69 yards and tie the game at 22s on a 21-yard touchdown run by Jurgensmeier.

McQueen had an answer. It found the end zone when fullback Kalaneti Peni rumbled across the goal line from five yards out, going back on top 29-22.

Next, the two teams traded punts, but then they traded scores again. A 9-yard touchdown run by CJ Carithers got the Cougars into a 29-29 deadlock with 2:10 left in the third.

Friday's win over McQueen was big for a Spanish Springs team that looked to be rolling with five wins in its first five games but then suffered a huge setback in a 34-20 home loss to Reno a week earlier.

"We have not beaten McQueen very many times so it's just a big step to beat their program," Hare said. "I think we're showing that when we do play to our ability we can beat anybody. But then again we've also shown, that when we don't, we can lose to anybody."

In the first half, Spanish Springs did have a lead. Unfortunately for the Cougars, that lead lasted only 18 seconds. Lively caught a 52-yard pass from Fralick 20 seconds into the second quarter and the Cougars took a 13-9 lead.

After the ensuing kickoff, McQueen took over at its own 20. On the Lancers' first play of the drive, Lucas Weber broke a handful of tackles and then bolted 80 yards for a touchdown that saw McQueen forge ahead 16-13.

Spanish Springs punted on the following possession and the big run play again hurt the SSHS defense. Weber again broke loose for a long touchdown run, this time from 63 yards away and McQueen was on top 22-13 after a failed conversion.

The Cougars got a 32-yard field goal from Barrera with 51 ticks to go before halftime and the scoreboard read 22-16 at the break.

The big play was key for McQueen. The Lancers jumped ahead 6-0 midway through the first quarter on a 66-yard TD pass from Delon Buncio to Estephon Aparicio.

McQueen got a 32-yard field goal by Tyler Fritzen to take a 9-0 lead late in the first quarter. Spanish Springs answered with a 15-yard touchdown from Fralick to Shamir Geisinger, making the score 9-6.

Spanish Springs is in action again when it goes to North Valleys Oct. 19.

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