YAKIMA - The Sunnyside Grizzlies couldn't have scripted a better game plan to knock off the high flying Davis Pirates.
And, had it not been for a couple of untimely wrinkles that surfaced for the visiting 3A Grizzlies at the end of the contest, Sunnyside might of walked off the 4A Pirates' field with a victory last Friday night.
The way it turned out, though, the Davis High School football team used some late game heroics to eke out a come-from-behind 26-18 win.
The Pirates improved to 2-0 on the young season, while Sunnyside slipped to 1-1 through the non-league part of its schedule. The Grizzlies this coming Thursday will begin their seven-game stretch through the 3A ranks of the Columbia Basin Big Nine League at Southridge.
Exchanging leads early on last Friday, the game turned Sunnyside's way on the opening drive after intermission. Eating up the clock for almost the entire third quarter, the Grizzlies punched the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard plunge by QB Eduardo Salmeron. A two-point conversion run by senior Steven Monterrey gave Sunnyside a 15-12 lead.
The Grizzlies tacked on a 33-yard field goal as time was expiring in the third quarter, off the foot of Monterrey, to up their advantage to 18-12.
Sunnyside's defensive unit, as it had been doing for most of the game, shut the Pirates down on the ensuing possession. The Grizzlies got the ball back and were driving for an insurance score, but an errant toss by Salmeron was snatched by a Pirate defender and he was off to the races. The Davis defender actually zipped his way into the end zone, but a penalty called against the Pirates on the return forced the home team to set up shop from about 10 yards out. The Grizzlies stiffened and kept Davis short of the goal line on the first three plays, but facing 4th-and-goal the Pirate QB, Deion Wright, rolled out and scooted to pay dirt from about two yards out.
Davis went for a 2-point conversion, but the Grizzlies thwarted the attempt to keep the game deadlocked at 18-all.
Snatching a defeat from the jaws of victory might be the best way to describe Sunnyside's attempt on the ensuing possession to sock the game away. A fumble, the Grizzlies' third of the game, resulted in Cooper Kupp scooping up the loose pigskin and racing 41 yards for the go-ahead score. A Wright to David Trimble 2-point conversion pass accounted for the final 26-18 outcome.
A Grizzlies' last-gasp attempt died with Davis coming up with its second interception of the game.
Considering the "big play" Pirates threw for 460-plus yards in its season opener at Eastmont while racking up 54 points against the Wildcats, the fact that Sunnyside limited Davis to just 116 aerial yards and 148 on the ground last Friday came as a shock to some.
Taking away the quick strikes and the big plays were exactly what SHS Coach Mark Marro and his assistants were hoping for, however.
"We thought we had it schemed out perfectly," said Marro. "The plan was to bend but not break," he said, explaining that the Grizzlies believed Davis did not have the patience to drive the ball methodically, and would look frequently to go for the quick score.
That's pretty much what happened.
"They dinked off a few short passes, but would then go deep," said Marro.
Thanks to some great defensive coverage, and lots of pressure put on the QB Wright by Sunnyside's linemen, hardly any of those long bombs came to fruition for the Pirates.
Wright had to settle for 15-of-32 passing numbers, picking up just 116 yards through the air. The Davis quarterback also was picked once, by junior DB Joseph Contreras.
Much of the Grizzlies' success for limiting Davis to just 264 total yards of offense has to be credited to the Grizzly linemen.
"Our D-line was hounding their quarterback all night long," said Marro. He especially singled out 240-lb. Val Trujillo and 215-lb. Miguel Guzman, as well as defensive end Eric Amaro, a 175-lb. junior who was in on a couple of sacks.
Marro, too, said Austin Carman had a "coming out" last Friday night, explaining that the 230-lb. sophomore proved he's ready to take his place on the offensive and defensive lines on a consistent basis.
Offensively for the Grizzlies last Friday, Monterrey had a first quarter, 8-yard TD run to go along with his two-point conversion run and field goal. The speedy running back was the leading ground gainer in the game, netting 117 yards on 19 totes. A lot of Monterrey's yardage came after intermission, after the SHS coaching staff changed the blocking assignments of the offensive linemen.
SHS running backs Rudy Navarro and Ramon Hernandez added a combined 27 yards on the ground on a total of five carries. The Grizzly QB, Salmeron, threw for only 46 yards on 4-of-15 pass attempts.
Wright, the Davis QB, tallied the most rushing yardage for the Pirates, picking up 94 yards on 14 scrambles.
"It was very hot down on the field last Friday, and it turned out to be a very long game," said Marro. "No excuses, it was hot on both sides of the field. The way it turned out, we had just those couple of lapses at the end.
"Everything considered, I really thought we gave ourselves the best opportunity to come away with a win.
"It didn't happen, but I can't fault the job we did out there."