Points were hard to come by as the Saugus Centurions outlasted the Golden Valley Grizzlies 14-7 at Canyon High School Thursday night.
Down a touchdown with five seconds left, the Grizzlies (1-1-1) had an opportunity to tie it with a Hail Mary from the Saugus 40-yard line. Junior quarterback Jaxon Miner heaved the ball into the endzone where, after being tipped and nearly caught, the pass fell incomplete.
“We knew it was going to be like that,” said Saugus (3-0) head coach Jason Bornn. “They’re a well-coached, disciplined football team.”
The Foothill League has officially passed the halfway point of this condensed season and every team is still working out some kinks. That could be seen on the field Thursday as both teams struggled to consistently sustain drives. Sacks, penalties and other negative plays plagued both teams as they combined to punt on 16 of 23 total drives in the game.
Saugus’s first drive looked promising until a 4-yard sack of senior quarterback Colton FitzGerald stalled the drive. The Grizzlies kept FitzGerald under pressure all night, sacking him five times and forcing throws under pressure.
Saugus’ sophomore running back Vinny Gallagher put the first points on the board when he broke himself free with a strong stiff arm that allowed him to go up the left sideline for 37 yards and the score, giving the Centurions a 7-0 lead that they would take into halftime.
After a third quarter that featured five straight drives that ended in punts, the Grizzlies tied the game when Miner hit junior running back Jared Giles on a screen that Giles took up the right sideline for a 53-yard score.
“We didn’t play a very good first half,” said Golden Valley head coach Dan Kelley. “The mistakes you made in the first half come back to haunt you in the second half. If we had played a solid first half, maybe we wouldn’t have been in the position we were at the end there.”
After the teams traded punts, Saugus would take its final lead when FitzGerald was able to connect with senior wideout Hunter Girch for a 46-yard touchdown in which Girch had to break free of Grizzlies cornerback Mekhi Newton and dive into the endzone.
“He was jamming me, we knew it was going to be there, it was just a matter of when we would get it,” said Girch. “O-line blocked well, (FitzGerald) threw a perfect pass, and we just had to get there.”
A holding penalty stalled Golden Valley’s next drive, but after forcing a Centurion punt, the Grizzlies had a last chance to tie it.
A 25-yard pass from Miner to Noah Thompson got the Grizzlies into striking range but the final Hail Mary fell incomplete in the endzone as time expired.
Saugus will look to keep its winning streak going Thursday against West Ranch and Golden Valley will look to bounce back against Valencia next Friday.