The Paw Print
The Adams State College Grizzlies avoided blowing an early 17-point lead over the visiting Mesa State Mavericks on Saturday afternoon at Rex Stadium, clinching the 41-34 double-overtime victory while also accomplishing their first winning record at home since the 2006 season.
Junior running back Terjean Saffold led the way for the Grizzlies, scoring four touchdowns, but junior wide receiver Dustin Bolt played the role of hero, connecting with sophomore quarterback Trevor Eggleston on the eventual game winner, a 25-yard touchdown throw-and-catch on the first play of the second overtime.
The game certainly didn’t have the feel of the usual close games between these two schools, as the Grizzlies jumped out to an early 14-0 lead behind touchdowns on the ground from redshirt freshman running back Chris Jamison and Saffold on their first two offensive possessions.
Mavericks’ sophomore kicker Caleb Pavy hit a 43-yard field goal near the end of the first quarter to cap off a 14-play, 73-yard drive to cut the lead to 14-3.
After trading punts for a few possessions, the Grizzlies put together one of their longest and most efficient drives of the season, racking up four first downs on a 10-play, 81-yard drive. Eggleston hit Saffold for the 6-yard scoring play, but sophomore kicker David Van Voris missed the extra point, his first miss in 41 career attempts, forcing the Grizzlies to settle for a 20-3 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Mavericks answered back via sophomore kick returner Trent deBraga’s 50-yard return to set up excellent field position, and needed only five plays to cover the remaining 45 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman running back Zach Adair to bring the score to 20-10 with 3:03 left in the half.
The Grizzlies settled in after the ensuing kickoff, recording a first down when Eggleston connected with junior wide receiver Delton Prescott Jr. for 16 yards, but Eggleston was intercepted by deBraga near midfield on the second play of the drive.
The interception was returned for 17 yards before deBraga was forced out of bounds, but the Mavericks once again found themselves with a short field, and once again capitalized on excellent field position, as Pavy nailed 34-yard field goal just before the end of the half to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to seven points, with the score 20-13 entering the break.
The Mavericks kept up the pace early in the third quarter, taking their first drive to within field goal range before Pavy’s 45-yard field goal attempt was blocked by senior defensive back Bryant Williams.
After forcing the Grizzlies to go three-and-out on their first possession of the second half, senior Maverick fullback Kris Means broke free from the crowd on an attempt on 4th-and-1 near midfield for 46 yards and a touchdown that tied the game at 20 following the successful point after by Pavy.
Saffold responded for the Grizzlies, scampering in from 40 yards out for a touchdown only three plays later to give the lead back to the Grizzlies, 27-20.
The teams traded punts to run out the third quarter, and sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Van Valkenburg picked off sophomore Maverick quarterback Michael Mankoff in the Grizzlies’ endzone to eliminate any hope the Mavericks had of tying the game on the first drive of the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies then marched off on their own long drive, taking nearly six minutes off the clock on their 13-play, 71-yard drive, including a 21-yard run by sophomore defensive back James Ackel on a fake punt midway through the drive to keep the ball moving. However, the Grizzlies were unable to extend their lead to two possessions, as a 26-yard field goal attempt by Van Voris hit the crossbar, keeping the score at 27-20 with 5:35 left in the game.
The Mavericks took possession on their own 20-yard-line following the miss, and covered 80 yards on only 8 plays, including a 49-yard reception by redshirt freshman wide receiver Brennan Belloni, before Mankoff hit Belloni again for a 14-yard touchdown. Pavy’s extra point tied the game at 27 with 2:03 left on the clock.
The Grizzlies followed by going three-and-out on their next drive, appearing to end all hopes of a regulation victory. However, Ackel forced a fumble by senior Maverick wide receiver Ricky Noble that was recovered by junior linebacker Rocco DeLorenzo, giving the Grizzlies one more chance at the victory.
DeLorenzo was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference defensive player of the week for the second time in his Grizzly career after racking up a career-high 17 tackles in addition to the fumble recovery.
The Grizzlies quickly marched into field goal range, only to see Van Voris’ 38-yard field goal attempt with 16 seconds left blocked by senior defensive end Nainoa Campbell to send the game to overtime following a kneel down by the Mavericks.
Mankoff found Belloni on a 20-yard touchdown pass on the third play of overtime to give the Mavericks their first lead of the game, 34-27.
However, the Grizzlies responded, as Saffold scored his fourth touchdown of the afternoon on an 8-yard touchdown run to bring the Grizzlies within one point, 34-33.
The Grizzlies called timeout to discuss the merits of going for two points, but ultimately settled on Bolt, who doubles as the Grizzlies’ punter, to attempt the extra point, which was successful and sent the game into double-overtime tied at 34.
Bolt then caught the eventual game-winning score to put the Grizzlies ahead for good.
The Grizzly defense made it interesting on the ensuing drive by the Mavericks, committing two penalties before settling down and breaking up three consecutive passes to clinch the victory.
Eggleston finished the game a respectable 25 of 36 for 271 yards and two touchdowns, while Saffold led the Grizzlies on the ground with 114 yards on 16 carries. Saffold now has 11 touchdowns on the season, including eight touchdowns on the ground.
The Mavericks dropped to 3-6 overall and 3-5 in the RMAC, and will wrap up their 2010-11 campaign this Saturday in Grand Junction against the Chadron State Eagles.
The Grizzlies, who have won six of the last seven games against the Mavericks, including the last three, will close out their season this Saturday at the Western State Mountaineers in the Colorado Classic. The Grizzlies are now 4-6 overall, including a 2-5 record within the conference. The Mavericks are 1-9 on the season, with a 1-7 mark in the RMAC, and are tied with New Mexico Highlands for last place in the conference.
The Grizzlies have won the Colorado Classic over their arch-rivals in each of the last eight seasons. Kickoff in Gunnison is scheduled for 1 p.m.