In 15 seconds, Steve Turner helped turn the tide and continue the historic start for Discovery Canyon.
The senior’s 82-yard fourth-quarter kickoff return answered a two-touchdown rally by Lewis-Palmer, helping the Thunder to a 38-27 victory Thursday at District 20 Stadium for their first victory over the Rangers.
“It was a broken play; we had 10 players on the field,” Turner said. “But I had to make something happen when there was nothing there. Something had to change the momentum. We didn’t want to let them take it back.”
Cameron Packwood had two short touchdown runs, and the Thunder defense turned three consecutive Rangers turnovers all into first-half touchdowns in building a 28-7 lead.
The Thunder (5-1, 1-0 3A Southern League) rebounded after last week’s sloppy 20-15 loss to The Classical Academy and improved on their best start in the school’s short three-year history as a varsity program. Lewis-Palmer fell to 2-4, 0-1.
“They took it to us,” Rangers senior quarterback Nathan Conner said. “They’ve come together really well the last few years. We didn’t take care of the ball and they took advantage.”
Conner, who led the Rangers to the 3A second round last year, rallied Lewis-Palmer in the fourth quarter. In a span of 4:14 early in the frame, his 23-yard touchdown pass to Matt Brines and 18-yard run brought the Rangers to within 31-27 before Turner's return.
Lewis-Palmer drove to the Thunder 1 but couldn’t score, and Discovery Canyon ran out the final minutes.
“We had the momentum and started to move the ball a little bit,” said Conner, who accounted for three turnovers, including two interceptions. “Mistakes killed us. Our defense is playing well, but it’s still the offense. We’re turning the ball over too much.”
The Rangers scored first on Sean Grundman’s 66-yard touchdown run, with the ball taking a fortuitous bounce at the Discovery Canyon 30 so he didn't break stride while running freely behind the secondary.
The Thunder answered with a grinding 14-play, 75-yard drive, completed with Packwood’s 2-yard touchdown run with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Then the self-destruction process started for Lewis-Palmer.
On the ensuing drive, Conner fumbled after being sacked, and Thunder safety Ben Gilson recovered at the Rangers' 26. After the drive stalled three plays later, Gilson, the holder on a 36-yard field-goal attempt, took the snap and went untouched around the left side for a touchdown that broke the tie and gave Discovery Canyon the lead for good.
Five plays into the next drive, Quincy Campbell intercepted Conner and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. The next time Lewis-Palmer touched the ball, Rangers punter Michael Johnston couldn’t handle a snap at the 5, setting up a short Thunder scoring drive, ended with Packwood’s 2-yard run with 6:34 left in the second quarter.
“We finally got them,” Turner said. “We had been so close the past two years. The whole team pulled together and capitalized on the mistakes they made.”