Eagle Valley wins heart-stopper
Vail, CO Colorado
DELTA, Colorado ” Eagle Valley continued to its march back to .500 with a gut-wrenching 27-23 victory over Delta Friday night.
The Devils can give a big thanks to Harrison Neal. The senior came back from leg cramps to lift Eagle Valley to its second win of the season. The Devils are now 2-5 (2-3 in the Slope) after starting the season 0-5 with a brutal slate of games.
“I was happy with our kids,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said. “It’s great getting a road victory.”
It was Neal who rose to the occasion in the second half. After being taken off the field in the third quarter with cramps, Neal returned to spark the Devils. First, Neal went 53 yards on a counter for his second touchdown of the game to put Eagle Valley ahead 27-17.
With time dwindling down in the fourth quarter, and the Devils clinging to a 27-23 advantage, Neal knocked down an Austin Watson pass to seal the victory for Eagle Valley.
“Harrison came up with a big play at the end,” Ramunno said. “He stepped up big time for us. Last week, it was Robert Padgett, this week, it was Harrison.”
Eagle Valley started the second half with a 14-9 lead, and quickly added to its advantage. Following a Delta turnover, Eagle Valley marched 20 yards for the TD. Neal capped the drive with a 13-yard sprint to the end zone on fourth-and-3 to give the Devils a 20-9 lead.
The Panthers wasted little time responding. David Murphy plunged in from five yards out to cap Delta’s 67-yard drive. The score cut Eagle Valley’s lead to 20-17.
After drives by both teams stalled, it was time for Neal’s heroics. On the second play of the Devils’ drive, Neal burst through the line for a 53-yard TD to push the lead to 27-17. Neal finished the game with 99 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.
“It was getting harder to get outside,” Ramunno said. “They made some adjustments at halftime. (John) Crawford was having success in the first half. Harrison scored twice on that (inside) counter tonight.”
Delta again answered the Eagle Valley TD with one of its own. After Eagle Valley was stuffed on fourth-and-2, the Panthers went 35 yards for a TD. This time, Watson found an open receiver for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
“It wasn’t the smartest thing by me as a coach,” said Ramunno, of going for it on fourth down. “We had fourth-and-2, and I thought, ‘We can get two yards.’ We got a yard-and-a-half.”
The Panthers’ defense stopped Eagle Valley on its next possession to set up the dramatic last Delta drive. The Panthers took over on their own 20-yard line with 2:56 remaining in the game. Watson maneuvered Delta inside Devils territory, but Eagle Valley’s defense came up big. On fourth-and-5, Neal knocked down a Watson pass to seal the win.
“Our defense did a good job,” Ramunno said. “Tonight, we still had some missed tackles, but overall, they still did pretty good.”
It appeared the Devils would cruise to their second win of the season in the first half. On its first possession of the game, Eagle Valley went 70 yards on seven plays for a touchdown. John Crawford rumbled for a 5-yard TD on the drive. Crawford was Eagle Valley’s second-leading rusher on the night with 65 yards.
The Devils stretched their lead to 14-0 in the second quarter after a Padgett 6-yard TD run. It looked like Eagle Valley would take the 14-point advantage into the break, but turnovers hurt the Devils. Delta converted two Eagle Valley turnovers into nine points in the last 26 seconds of the half to send the game into the break 14-9.
In the end, though, it didn’t matter as the Devils came up with enough big plays to secure their second win. Next week, Eagle Valley hosts Montezuma-Cortez in Gypsum.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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