Trailing by 11, the Cougars marched into the red zone on their final three possessions of the game but came away empty on each drive.
Spanish Springs fell to 3-4, 1-2 in the HDL while McQueen improved to 5-2, 3-1 in the HDL. Despite the loss, Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare was anything but upset.
“We played good football,” Hare said with a sigh. “We played good football … We all compete and want to win. But if it came down to, as a football coach and what we do on a weekly basis, if you had to say your team is going to get better against a really good football team but lose, or you could go play some cupcake and beat them, I would rather take this game any day of the week.”
Trailing 35-24 with 3:17 left in the third quarter, Spanish Springs marched from its own 2-yard line into the McQueen red zone on a 13-play drive but came away empty-handed after Anthony Cummins was stuffed on fourth and three from 21.
After a McQueen punt, the Cougars marched to the McQueen 8-yard line but senior quarterback Hunter Fralick was spotted six inches short of a first down on a fourth-and-two scramble. It appeared Fralick earned the necessary yardage but was ruled to go out of bounds before the marker.
Hare said kicking a field goal at that spot with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter wasn’t an option.
“I thought at that point in time, I’m going to put the ball in probably the best player in northern Nevada’s hands,” Hare said.
On what turned out to be the Cougars’ final possession, Spanish Springs marched into the McQueen red zone once again but missed a 33-yard field goal attempt with 2:31 remaining in the game.
Led by Fralick, the Cougars scored all 24 of their points in the first quarter. Fralick showed his breakaway speed on the third play of the game, bolting 83 yards in front of his sideline, to put the Cougars up, 7-0, 51 seconds into the game.
McQueen responded with a four-play, 64-yard drive to tie the game less than two minutes later. It was capped by a 22-yard Lucas Weber score. Weber entered the game as the second-leading rusher in the Div. I North averaging more than 155 yards per game.
Ricardo Espinoza drilled a 26-yard field goal on the Cougars’ next drive to put Spanish Springs back in front. The drive was aided by Gehrig Parks’ 50-yard catch and run in heavy traffic.
Parks finished with three catches for 87 yards.
On the Lancers' ensuing drive, Eric Hill intercepted McQueen quarterback Delon Buncio's pass in the red zone, which the Cougars turned into seven points after Fralick’s 5-yard TD scamper.
Fralick accounted for 444 total yards in the loss. The University of Nevada verbal commit ran for 241 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. He also completed 13-of-27 pass attempts for 203 yards.
After the Spanish Springs defense allowed a seven-play, 63-yard touchdown drive that closed the gap to 17-13, Fralick scored the Cougars’ final points of the game on a 51-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left in the opening quarter.
“Obviously McQueen made some adjustments (after the first quarter) not to let Hunter kind of just run around the corner,” Hare said. “So part of it is, McQueen made some plays and then I have to watch the film.”
After a recovering the Cougars’ on-side kick attempt, the Lancers marched 48 yard on three plays, closing the gap back to three on the first play of the second quarter.
The Lancers took their first lead of the game with 1:10 left in the half with a 32-yard touchdown toss from Buncio to Michael Mathews.
On the second play out the locker room at halftime, Buncio connected with tight end Austin Rukthavornsakul from 64 yards out to push the lead to 35-24, 47 seconds into the half.
Those were the final points of the game as both defenses bowed their necks in the second half.
“I thought our defense withstood the storm. We knew we were going to give up some points. And then I thought they did a heck of a job once we figured out what McQueen was doing,” Hare said.
Trevor Listman had a healthy night for the Cougars grabbing five passes for 113 yards.
The Cougars host North Valleys Thursday in what essentially amounts to a must-win game.
"We're playing a team we have to beat," Hare said. "We have to beat North Valleys to make the playoffs."