Game of the Week: Hall 20, Princeton 18
SPRING VALLEY — There have been a lot of sparks fly in the Princeton Tigers-Hall Red Devils football rivalry over the years. None can match what the crowd experienced on and off the field at Nesti Stadium Friday night
Hall stunned the crowd in the fourth quarter with a game-winning, 50-yard flea-flicker pass from James Mautino to Steven Brust to take a 20-18 lead with 1:27 left to play which would stand up for victory.
Mautino, who was tackled just after releasing the pass and slid under the bleachers on the PHS sidelines, said he couldn’t see the play but heard the roar of the crowd and knew that Brust caught the ball.
"I threw the ball, got hit, slid through the mud and as soon as I heard, 'awwww (crowd noise),' I popped up and sprinted across the field," Mautino said.
"Every time we do it, he makes the plays. I'm just the one who catches it," Brust said.
Hall coach Randy Tieman said he told one of his assistants, "I'm going to have to pull something out of my butt," but wouldn't divulge the name of the play.
"Yeah, that's top secret, top secret. We can't discuss it," said a smiling Mautino, his No. 23 Red Devils jersey caked in mud from the rain-soaked field.
"Hat's off to them. That was a gutsy call," PHS coach Ryan Pearson said.
Just shortly after the start of second-quarter, smoke started billowing from the press box as sparks flew from a wire hanging down into the press box. Press box personnel quickly evacuated as did the entire home side of the bleachers. The Spring Valley Fire Department and the power company showed up to inspect the situation.
Pearson, whose team led for most of the game, felt the lengthy delay halted the Tigers' momentum.
"I feel like we outplayed them, but they got us on the scoreboard. That's what counts," he said.
At the time of the delay, Princeton led 12-7 with two early touchdowns by Ronde Worrels.
The Princeton sophomore scored on the game's very first play from scrimmage, racing 64 yards for the Tiger TD.
He scored again just over two minutes later on a five-yard run, capping a 25-yard, five-play drive set up by a fumble recovery by senior Hayden Welte.
After converting a fourth and two from their own 22, the Red Devils scored on 20-yard pass from junior quarterback Grant Resetich to Brust with 3:27 left in the first quarter. Anthony Buchanan's PAT made it 12-7.
Then the next rush would be by all the fans and game officials and media scampering out of the home bleachers and press box.
PHS athletic director Jeff Ohlson and assistant coach Dave Moore, both longtime coaches, said they have never seen anything like what caused the 30-minute delay.
“It is unique. I am not sure what is going on with it. It is just another night for a Friday night football game," Ohlson said.
Buchanan created sparks on the field after play resumed, racing 55 yards for a Red Devils' touchdown at the 6:49 mark of second quarter. He added the PAT to put the Red Devils up 14-12.
The Tigers regained an 18-14 lead on a 3-yard run by Worrels as time ran out in the first half.
Princeton had its chances to extend its lead in the fourth quarter.
Pearson sent sophomore kicker Jamie Reinhardt to attempt a 35-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and while he had plenty of leg, he just pushed his kick to the left of the uprights.
Senior defensive back Payton Moore picked off a pass by Resetich on Hall's ensuing possession, giving the Tigers possession right at midfield. Facing a fourth and 8 from the Hall 17, PHS quarterback Beck Robbins broke away from the line of scrimmage, but lost he ball as he was hit just before the goal line, fumbling the ball out of the end zone for a Hall touch back.
"The fumble down there at the end zone really hurt. That would have put us up two scores. But unfortunately that's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes," Pearson said.
"My hats off to Princeton, they played a heckuva game tonight. We just came up with a big play at the end," Tieman said.
"That's why we never give up. I have no words for the defense. It feels like we had 13 stops," Mautino said.
• Notes: Princeton won the sophomore game, 14-0. .... Next week's schedule sends Hall to Kewanee while Princeton returns home to face Sherrard, both in TRAC Mississippi play.