Behind an opportunistic defense and a quick-strike offense, the Purple and Silver quickly turned what was a 0-0 stalemate into a lopsided affair in the blink of an eye. After getting on the board first, Spanish Springs then turned a pair of Miner turnovers into nine points to grab a 16-0 lead en route to capturing a 26-6 playoff road victory at Manogue.
The victory marked Spanish Springs’ first postseason win in school history.
“It’s really great to be that team,” Spanish Springs’ QB Hunter Fralick said. “We haven’t been a football tradition school yet and we’re hoping that we can be the team to start that. We have to start small, so the first playoff win was great.”
Neither side was able to create any steam on offense in the first quarter as the Cougs managed just 46 yards of offense in the first 12 minutes. In the second though, SSHS found its rhythm.
After forcing a turnover on downs to start the second quarter, Spanish Springs immediately went to work. Dropping back to pass, Fralick hit wide receiver Vance Lively in stride before he galloped out of a would-be tackle and down to the Manogue 5-yard line. From there, SSHS took a 7-0 lead as receiver Ryder Lowry made a spinning catch in the back corner of the end zone with 10:58 remaining until halftime.
Jumping on a Miners fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Brik Chesley recovered for the Cougars and put the offense back in business. The Cougars turned the fumble recovery into three points on a 32-yard field goal by Henry Barrera for a 10-0 edge at the 9:34 mark.
Perhaps getting a little greedy following his touchdown grab to start the rally, Lowry made a diving interception on a ball that was thrown behind the intended receiver.
Putting the ball back into the hands of Fralick and Co., the Cougars methodically marched toward the end zone before capping the drive off with a 9-yard TD grab by Dallas Rohde on a quick slant. That score left Spanish Springs up 16-0 with 4:13 left in the second.
The Miners answered on their next possession, scoring but missing the two-point conversion to leave the score at 16-6 before Barrera notched his second field goal of the night, this time from 23 yards out for a 19-6 advantage at the break.
The 13-point lead the Cougars built in the second quarter alone would be all they needed to advance beyond the first round.
“I thought we did some good things in the second quarter,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “Then we got a little sloppy as the game went on but we were definitely able to put a little distance between us in the second quarter then just kind of kept it there for the rest of the game.”
In a second half that was riddled with punts and penalty markers, the Cougar D pitched a shutout while running back CJ Carithers dragged a Miner into the end zone from six yards out to result in the final of 26-6. The touchdown was set up by a 63-yard return by Lowry on the second half's opening kickoff.
While Hare was happy that the Cougars finally got their first playoff win into the record books, there were parts of the SSHS performance that left him looking for more.
“We definitely had a couple breakdowns tonight. It’s one of those things that we all need to clean up,” Hare said. “You’re not going to win games very deep into the playoffs if you have penalties the way we did. We can’t be in second-and-20. There’s not a lot of second-and-20s I have on the play sheet, so that obviously makes it tough … It was good that we got the turnovers. Unfortunately, we didn’t really capitalize tonight on some of those turnovers like we need to. There were two field goals and a goal line stand. Those need to be touchdowns.
“It feels good to get the win, but at the same time I wanted to see a little bit crisper football. Right now it’s a little bitter sweet. I’ll definitely appreciate the fact we got the win and I’m proud of the kids for doing that, but I didn’t think it was our finest hour in terms of the way we played. A win is a win though, and we’ll take it right now.”
Fralick finished the night 22-of-39 passing, totaling 275 yards through the air for two touchdowns. Lively was on the receiving end of five passes, racking up 114 yards. Lowry also had five grabs for 25 yards and a score, while Gehrig Parks hauled in six receptions for 43 yards. Rohde had a pair of catches that totaled 57 yards and a TD.
On the ground, Spanish Springs was led by Jeff Jurgensmeier, who had 53 yards on 15 carries. The Cougars finished the night with 139 yards rushing.
Spanish Springs (8-3) will now visit cross-town rival Reed Friday in a rematch from the season finale.
“They are a good football team,” Hare said of the Raiders. “They do a lot of really good things. It’s not an accident that they beat us the last few years and two weeks ago, and beat us pretty well. We have to scratch and claw and find a way to score some points and obviously keep them out of the end zone.”
While Hare went into detail about the Cougars’ next opponent, his quarterback Fralick kept it simple.
“Let’s go get ‘em.”