After failing to score a touchdown in the first two quarters, Galena crossed the goal line on its first four possessions of the second half. The only Grizzlies possession of the second half on which they did not score came in the closing minutes as they ran out the clock.
“There were plays there to be made and we didn’t make them,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “When you miss opportunities in a game, that hurts. That’s the bottom line. In a playoff game, the team that makes the most plays wins.”
Trailing 14-3, the Grizzlies came out of halftime with a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive that kickstarted their offense. Galena quarterback Beau Bickle found the end zone from a yard out for the touchdown that trimmed the Cougars’ lead to 14-10 with 8:20 showing on the third-quarter clock.
From there, Galena did more than stay in contention. The Grizzlies took the lead on a three-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 32-yard Bickel to Garrett Shutt touchdown pass. The score forged Galena into a 17-14 lead with 2:21 to go in the third quarter.
That’s when Spanish Springs got more bad news. Starting quarterback Tanner Oates left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return. The Cougars went three and out and Galena continued to build on its momentum.
“It’s tough," Hare said. "You fall behind. You lose your starting quarterback. It’s kind of like getting kicked in the stomach. Then your guys start to press a little bit … It’s just a combination of a lot of things. Galena played a great second half.”
It looked like the Cougars defense had held as Galena faced a fourth-and-6. However, after Spanish Springs called timeout, the Griz center faked a fumbled snap and then Galena fullback Christian Perez picked it up and rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead with 10:12 to go in the final quarter.
Galena began to pour it on. They then scored on their fourth straight possession of the fourth quarter. The Grizz took over at their own 47 after a failed Cougars fourth down try. They needed seven plays to go 53 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of reach. Bickel punched in a 1-yard run for the scoring honors with 3:19 remaining in the contest to account for the final score.
“I attribute it to Galena," Hare said. "They made a couple plays and showed us some things we hadn’t seen before. They got us. So I’d just say Galena made the plays they needed to make.”
After managing just 16 yards of offense before halftime, Galena put up more than 250 in the second half.
“If I knew the secret, I’d start that way every game,” Galena coach Steve Struzyk said, alluding to the difference in his team’s offensive production between the first and second halves. “I think it just takes our guys a while to get to work.”
Galena cashed in on the first break of the game. The Grizzlies took possession at the Spanish Springs 34 after they jumped on a loose ball, following a high snap on a failed punt attempt. Galena turned the gift into three points when Eric Johnson booted a 38-yard field goal for a 3-0 GHS lead with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
Galena’s first lead was short lived. Spanish Springs answered with a nine-play 80-yard drive that was capped by an Erwin Soto 1-yard touchdown dive. It gave the SSHS gridders a 7-3 lead at the 8:38 mark of the second quarter. Spanish Springs completed three passes of 15 or more yards — all for third-down conversions — on the scoring drive.
Spanish Springs went right back to work. The Cougars' defense forced a three-and-out and Galena’s attempt to get fancy backfired. Shutt, the Galena punter, rolled out on a fake or punt option. He waited too long to get the punt off and it was blocked by Sullivan Stevens. The loose ball was scooped up by Humberto Espinoza and Spanish Springs was set up at the Grizz 15. It took Spanish Springs just four plays to punch in its second touchdown, another 1-yard run by Soto. That gave the Cougars the 14-3 advantage with 5:04 left in the first half.
Galena (7-4) advances to play Carson in a Northern 4A regional semifinal Friday night at 7 p.m. Spanish Springs ends its season with a 7-4 record.