5d559559c41b1.image.jpg

File, The Gazette

A slippery and sloppy start to the third quarter that segued into a weather delay was only part of the unusual proceedings in Palmer Ridge’s 30-27 win over Mesa Ridge on Thursday night at CA Foster Stadium.

The Mesa Ridge football team came out for the second half amid a steady rain, looking to regain a lead after trailing by five at halftime, but the weather didn’t cooperate.

The Grizzlies, operating out of the shotgun as they did for most of the game, watched three straight snaps sail in various directions of quarterback Noah Ramirez. The last one skipped out of the end zone for a safety, giving Palmer Ridge a 22-15 lead. The teams headed back to the locker rooms before the Grizzlies could kick the ball back to the Bears after lightning was spotted in the area.

Play resumed after a roughly 35-minute break. The Grizzlies’ defense forced a punt on the first possession after the delay and made it a one-point game on a short fourth-down touchdown run by Desmond Burton. Tanner Widic missed the tying extra point but made up for it after the Grizzlies got the ball back when Palmer Ridge fumbled on a fourth-and-short play.

Ramirez put the ball up for Widic on third and nine on Mesa Ridge’s next drive. Widic, also a soccer player, adjusted to the throw, made the catch and shed a tackler en route to a roughly 70-yard touchdown that put the Grizzlies up five late in the third quarter.

Connor Cook, an outside linebacker and reserve running back who stepped into the starting role Thursday, scored his third touchdown of the game before a two-point conversion from Anthony Costanzo put Palmer Ridge up 30-27 to start the fourth quarter.

“He’s pretty phenomenal human being,” first-year Palmer Ridge coach Mike Armentrout said. “I trust that kid a lot, and I knew that our team was in good hands.”

Cook’s strong running helped the Bears drain the clock in the fourth quarter, as Palmer Ridge improved to 2-0.

“In past years, that’s been my only plan is grind it out, hit hard and just get those grunt yards. I’ve been really working on trying to avoid contact instead of seeking it so much,” Cook said.

“As the game went on, I got into more of a groove.”

The Grizzlies dropped to 1-1 but settled for a moral victory after taking the Bears, state finalists last season, down to the wire.

“When you think about it, this is a team that won one game last year and we have 35 kids out,” Mesa Ridge coach Jerimi Calip said. “They got 100 kids over there and we barely lose the game and have the chance to get a pick-six that we dropped that probably wins the game for us.”

The weather delay was hardly the only oddity of the evening after the first half featured back-to-back special teams touchdowns, a couple of unsuccessful fake punts, a 75-yard punt and a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The game started normally enough, as Cook opened the scoring with a short touchdown run on Palmer Ridge’s first possession.

After punting on their first possession, Mesa Ridge tried a fake on their second. Widic’s pass was incomplete, but he did flip the field on the Grizzlies’ third try. Punting from his own end zone, Widic used the wind at his back to boot it over the Palmer Ridge returner’s head. He got a favorable bounce and netted roughly 75 yards on a punt that traveled almost the length of the field.

Mesa Ridge tied it early in the second quarter when senior safety Cash Cheeks picked off a fourth-down pass near the goal line and returned it the length of the field to tie it. It was Mesa Ridge’s second interception of the first half after Carver Cheeks, Cash’s younger brother, came up with an interception just shy of the end zone, ending Palmer Ridge’s third drive.

Cook’s second touchdown, this one a 9-yard run where he carried a couple of tacklers into the end zone, put Palmer Ridge back in front before a series of big special teams plays as rain started to fall. The Grizzlies blocked the extra point and took a lead after Niko Allgood returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Mesa Ridge converted a two-point conversion to go up 15-13 only for Palmer Ridge’s James Weir to take the lead right back with a kickoff return touchdown of his own that gave the Bears a 20-15 lead at halftime. The physical contest remained close after the weather delay.

“Mesa Ridge played a good game,” Cook said. “But we played it better.”