JOHN DAY - Special teams saved the day for the Grant Union football team last week.
Offense and defense may be the focus of most games, but the Prospectors' special teams gave them the edge in a 23-20 victory against Ontario Sept. 5.
"It was a dog fight," Grant Union coach Monty Nash said. "I felt we were in a good position all game. Our guys put in the hard work and I didn't see them give up anytime during the game."
Grant Union faced a fourth down and 10 yards, trailing 20-8, with a little more than three minutes left on the clock. The Pros lined up for the punt, but as the ball was snapped Jimmy Cook ran to the left of the field picking up 24 yards and a first down. Grant Union quarterback Austin Ranft hit Dustin Lippert for a 30-yard touchdown four plays later.
A strong Grant Union defensive stand held Ontario to three or less yards per play and resulted in a sack of quarterback Tad Anzaldua for a loss of seven yards. An illegal procedure penalty on the Tigers pushed them back to the 24 yard line and forced a punt on a fourth down and 35 yards. Connor Smith squeezed through the Ontario offensive line and got a hand on the punt. Smith went on to recover the ball on the three-yard line. Cook took advantage of the turnover and took the ball into the end zone to put the Pros ahead 21-20 with 49 seconds remaining in the game. Ranft hit Lippert for the two-point conversion and put Grant Union up by three.
Ontario never threatened on their final possession and the game ended when Ranft downed the ball and ran the clock out.
"It came down to desire," Ontario coach Trever Wilson said. "They just overpowered us in the fourth quarter. We need to be able to step up in the fourth quarter. We didn't block guys on the punt. My guys gave up big plays at the end."
The Pros mixed up the attack on offense throughout the game. They ended the game with 201 yards rushing and 141 passing. Cook led the team in the air and on the ground. He had 90 yards on 12 carries and 57 yards on a single reception that he took in for the first Grant Union touchdown. However, Cook didn't do it alone. Zane Murray ran for 60 yards and Tyler Martin added 46 of his own. Lippert had three catches for 55 yards.
Nash said passing and rushing were both important in the win.
"I think you need a little bit of both especially when you play a tough club like Ontario," Nash said. "You can't just rely on one. Later in the game it was necessary to do some things that we might not have otherwise done, but it worked out."
Grant Union slightly edged Ontario in total yards 342 to 330. The Tigers were led by running back Frank Lopez with 123 yards on the ground. Ontario's Jake Turner had 69 yards receiving and 44 rushing.
Although both teams had nine possessions, Nash said he wants to work on keeping the ball out of the opponents hands.
"As I told the kids, I feel we need to improve our control of the ball more," Nash said. "Ontario had the ball too much and ran too many plays."
The Pros will now prepare for their first away game of the season in Lakeview at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12. Lakeview dropped their first game of the season 41-13 to Modoc, a team from Alturas, California, Friday, Sept. 5.