GARDEN VALLEY — Tough defense, special teams and a ball bouncing their way led to the Golden Sierra Grizzlies’ 16-14 Homecoming victory over visiting Highlands Friday in a key Sierra Delta League matchup.
The Griz win gave them a 3-0 record in league, good for first place.
Both the Scots and Golden Sierra came in undefeated in league. Trailing early, the hosts relied on the resilient defense from Brian Cann, Samuel Steward, Bryson Campbell, Daniel Lesher, Adam Sewell, Zander Mishler, Justin Eicher, and Austin Mason along with a host of other teammates to overcome the deficit.
“Our team has really come together as a family and it is nice to see how they are playing together as a team and having fun,” Golden Sierra coach John Hilton said. “Our defense made some big plays tonight and put Highlands in difficult long yardage situations.”
Sustaining drives was a struggle for the Grizzly offense but on one that tied the game, Gracen Christensen made a clutch grab on fourth down play for 20 yards that set up a 7-yard scamper by Sewell (16 carries, 98 yards).
It remained deadlocked at 6-6 until Lesher intercepted a pass and returned it 88 yards to give the Grizzlies a 13-6 advantage after the extra point by Campbell.
“Earlier in the game their quarterback threw that same route and I just missed it. On the interception I jumped in front of the receiver and was able to return it. Our whole team deserves the credit for this win though,” Lesher said.
Once Golden Sierra seized the lead, the Grizzlies received a special teams boost that proved to be the deciding points in the waning seconds of the first half. After Mason crashed through and blocked a Highlands’ punt, Cann struck a 42-yard field goal that bounced off the cross-bar for a 16-6 lead going into halftime.
With a little over six minutes left, the Scots scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 16-14 but the Grizzlies held on.
“We dug deep tonight and found a way to win,” Campbell said. “We made some mistakes but we were able to regroup and after some doubt early, made some big plays to win the game.”