The St. Mary’s Pirates had Florence on the edge of the plank.
But then a fired up and angry Husky trio of Scott Sandoval, Johnnie Krien and quarterback Zach Hoxie rallied Florence (2-1) to a 34-14 victory over the Pirates (2-1) in a back-and-forth 2A showdown at Grace Center.
Sandoval and Hoxie led a determined, 13-play 68-yard scoring drive into the fourth quarter to take the lead for good after St. Mary’s had tied it at 14 with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter on Logan Elliott’s 61-yard play action pass.
Sandoval put the Huskies back in front for good 21-14 when he rumbled up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown and then converted the following PAT kick with 11:11 remaining. He also blocked a St. Mary’s punt in the final minutes of the game that was returned by Cameron Marques for a touchdown.
“We just kind of found our fire and finally got to work,” Sandoval said. “I read my blocks and we put it into the end zone. I just had to go for it. All or nothing.”
“He hadn’t played a lot of fullback, but he is figuring it out and getting it,” coach Mark Buderus said. “He’s a pretty talented kid. We’re happy with the things he is doing.”
Yet it was Hoxie’s play on fourth and 2 the play before when the quarterback, making his first start since injuring his ankle in the season opener, stretched out on a keeper along the right side for a first down by inches.
On the Huskies previous possession, Krien clawed, stiff-armed, dragged and fought his way into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth down.
The junior then sealed the game by bouncing from a crowded line of scrimmage 30 yards down the sideline with 8:37 remaining to give the Huskies a 28-14 lead.
“We started getting fired up,” Krien said. “A lot of yelling and intensity on the sideline. That’s what you have to have to win a football game.”
St. Mary’s coach Nic Olney took responsibility for a fourth quarter that saw the Pirates have three straight series without a first down.
“I have to do a better job preparing my team for battle,” he said. “Football is an emotional game and the key is keeping your emotions in check and I have to do a better job getting my team prepared to win.”
Colten Wolf made a nice play late in the first half when he read Hoxie’s eyes on a pass towards the left sideline and made a leading interception while falling backward with 1:25 remaining.
Elliott then orchestrated an eight-play scoring drive, capped off with a tying 10-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Gaines before the half.
Yet Florence found a way to rebound after last week’s 41-6 loss to Kent Denver.
“We got the snot knocked out of us last week and we were able to come back and put some stuff together,” Buderus said.