RENO - A moral victory?
Galena football coach Steve Struzyk didn't want to hear it.
"We're done with moral victories in this program," Struzyk said after the Grizzlies' heartbreaking 19-14 loss to top-ranked and unbeaten McQueen Friday night on the Lancers' home field.
"We have to start taking it to the next level. This team is ticked. This team wanted to beat McQueen. They were not happy just keeping up with them."
And, had it not been for a critical third-quarter fumble by workhorse Ryan Krueger (22 carries, 73 yards) at his own 30-yard line, and a couple of botched opportunities in the first half, the outcome might have been different.
The Grizzlies led 7-6 with less than a minute left in the third quarter when disaster struck. Krueger had the ball jarred loose in the pile, and lost it.
Shawn Pritchard (20-95) carried 13 yards down to the Galena 17, and he scored on a 13-yard run two plays later to give the Lancers a 12-7 lead with 11:53 left in the fourth quarter. Jordan Arnold jarred the two-point conversion pass loose from 6-foot-8 Matt LaGrone, who is headed to Nevada on a basketball scholarship.
"Ryan ran hard all night," said Struzyk, whose team gave up its first points of the year and fell to 2-1. "Who knows what happened in the pile. The bottom line is you can't let the ball out."
Tim Turner's 40-yard punt return spelled doom for the Grizzlies and gave the Lancers great field position at the Galena 21. Galena appeared to have the drive stopped, but McQueen quarterback Ryan Wickes scrambled for nine yards and a first down at the 8-yard line. Shawn Pritchard scored three plays later from the 2, and C.J. Riley's PAT made it 19-7 with 7:10 left.
The Lancers may have thought they were home free, but Galena wasn't done.
Sophomore quarterback Jacob Anderson hooked up with Cole Dowty for nine yards to the Galena 47. Anderson threw a slant to Arnold, who sidestepped two McQueen defenders and brought the ball down to the McQueen 21.
After Krueger was thrown for a yard loss, Anderson found Arnold for a 22-yard scoring pass in the left corner of the end zone. Travis Gibson's PAT made it 19-14 with 5:48 left.
The Grizzlies' defense, which played so well in a scoreless first half, just couldn't get off the field quick enough on the ensuing drive. The Lancers were able to get two first downs, the second coming on a 6-yard pass from Wickes to Travis Reynolds on a third-and-5 situation. McQueen finally punted the ball away, giving the Grizzlies the ball with just two minutes left.
A 36-yard pass from Anderson to Anthony Fritsche, who caught a 12-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, gave the Grizzlies a first down at the McQueen 47, That's where the drive ended, as Anderson threw four straight incomplete passes. On his last two attempts, Anderson was pressured by LaGrone.
As proud as Struzyk was, he knows that his rushing defense wasn't quite up to the task in the final 24 minutes, as Shawn and Josh Pritchard (18-98) caught fire.
"We gave up too many yards in the second half," Struzyk said.
Struzyk may have been more steamed about his team's inability to take advantage of some great field position after McQueen mistakes.
A punt midway through the first quarter bounced off the leg of a McQueen player and was recovered by Casey Ernst at the McQueen 23.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Krueger was stopped after a 3-yard gain, and Anderson's third-down pass resulted in a 2-yard gain by Dowty. Gibson's 34-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
Another mishandled punt which was recovered by Jake Hess at the Galena 49. The Grizzlies went three and out. Another opportunity down the drain.
And, Struzyk knows you can't do that against a talented team like McQueen.
"This is the type of game you want to play," McQueen coach Ken Dalton said. "It makes both teams better. I knew Galena was very athletic and could play defense."
And, the Grizzlies did everything but win the game.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281