Three-for-three, that's what Sunnyside is the last three games in terms of giving up the lead and allowing its opponent to rally late for a come-from-behind victory.
The third consecutive and latest team to scratch out a win against the Grizzly football team in the late going is West Valley. The Rams rolled into Sunnyside last Friday and rallied from a 12-7 second half deficit to clip the home team, 22-12.
The Rams (2-2) evened its CBBN 3A league mark at 1-1, while Sunnyside (1-3) fell to 0-2 in conference play.
It might be easier for the Grizzlies to stomach the late-game implosions if they were putting up less-than-adequate performances on the field. Sadly, Sunnyside's players are turning in some stellar efforts, as well as some eye-popping statistics, only to time and again walk off the field a loser.
The dagger that the Rams used to do in the Grizzlies came with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter. Trailing host Sunnyside by a 12-7 count, West Valley capped off a drive with a 7-yard TD run by Ronney Peckman, who finished the game as the Rams' fourth leading rusher (four carries for 26 yards). A two-point conversion run by Justin Ferrari upped West Valley's lead to 15-12.
Neither team could sustain anything else that resembled a potential score, that is until Sunnyside pieced together a methodical march late in the fourth quarter that ended up deep in Ram territory. Facing fourth-and-goal from inside the West Valley 5-yard line, Sunnyside Coach Mark Marro elected not to take the possible game-tying field goal. Instead, he went for the win. The Rams, however, stiffened and kept Sunnyside out of the end zone.
With only about two minutes remaining Sunnyside's defenders were forced to gamble and play takeaway football. As often happens with that brand of defensive coverage, someone on the offensive side of the field ends up uncovered. As it turned out it was West Valley's top running back, Ferrari. He found daylight and was off to the races, scampering 92 yards for an insurance touchdown. The ensuing PAT accounted for the final 22-12 score.
Up until that point Ferrari had 66 yards rushing in the game. The 92-yard breakaway run resulted in him earning top ground-gainer status. He finished with 12 totes for 158 yards.
Sunnyside wasted little time, check that, make that no time, in letting the Rams know they had their work cut out for them last Friday. On the opening offensive play of the game, Grizzly QB Eduardo Salmeron found wide receiver Joseph Contreras running a vertical fade. Salmeron hit him with a pass in mid-stride, and Contreras was off to the races, scooting 67 yards to pay dirt.
Sunnyside's No. 1 kicker, Steven Monterrey, who's also the Grizzlies' featured premier running back, was sidelined last Friday by injury. The back-up kicker attempted the PAT, but the boot was off target, forcing Sunnyside to settle for a 6-0 advantage.
The Grizzlies made that score stand up the rest of the first half, chiefly by taking away the passing lanes of the two West Valley quarterbacks, Max King and Zach Bissel. King and Bissel never could get anything going through the air, as they had to settle for combined 6-for-10 throwing numbers for just 69 yards.
Marro said his defensive unit also did a nice job of containing West Valley's running game. The SHS coach said a host of Grizzlies stepped up to keep West Valley from moving the ball up and down the field. Specifically, he mentioned senior safety Isidro Ramirez and junior defensive end Eric Amaro as turning in stalwart performances on the defensive side of the ball.
West Valley finally got on the scoreboard on the opening drive of the second half. Pounding the ball on the ground, the Rams advanced the pigskin to the Sunnyside 26-yard line, from where Ferrari broke free and raced to the end zone. The PAT got the Rams a 7-6 lead.
On the very next drive by Sunnyside the Grizzlies stole back the lead. The junior Salmeron hooked up again with Contreras, also just a junior, on another big TD pass play. This one went for 61 yards. The two-point conversion run failed, though, but still the Grizzlies were up, 12-7.
A couple of drives later Peckman got the lead back for good for West Valley.
Offensively for Sunnyside, Marro said he couldn't be much happier with the numbers his club posted against the visitors. Salmeron, a first-year QB, threw for 255 yards on 10-of-22 passing. Contreras proved to be his primary target, hauling in six of the throws for a total of 200 yards, just one yard off the school record for most receiving yardage in a game.
Junior Ramon Hernandez also had a big night. The fill-in running back, now getting most of the carries with Monterrey out of the line-up, chewed up 100 yards on the ground on 18 carries. Hernandez also had two catches that went for 43 yards.
Sunnyside picked up another 33 rushing yards in the game thanks to 13 scrambles by the QB Salmeron and a combined five totes by Jacob Ross, Marcus Sanchez and Amaro.
"I can't fault anyone with the way we're moving the ball," said Marro.
"Basically, we're not finishing when we're in the red zone...and that comes down to me."
When asked if fatigue has been a factor in the Grizzlies not being able to put away their opponents late in the game, Marro said he can't really use that as an excuse.
"We're not poorly conditioned.
"What I can tell you is we're playing ironman football. Most of our guys play both sides of the ball, especially our big guys.
"Us not pulling it out late, I believe it's really about us not finishing in the red zone. That's what it comes down to, and that's all on me," Marro said.
The Grizzlies will be looking to put a chalk mark in the win column this coming Thursday at Kennewick (1-1, 3-1). The Lions suffered a heartbreaking 14-6 loss to the state's top ranked Kamiakin Braves last Friday.
"We're looking at it as a good week to play them," said Marro. "They're coming off a tough loss to Kamiakin, and with it being a short week, having to play on Thursday, we're hoping to steal one."