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5A high school football playoffs: Syracuse knocks off Pleasant Grove on final play

SHARE 5A high school football playoffs: Syracuse knocks off Pleasant Grove on final play

PLEASANT GROVE — Syracuse watched an 18-point second-half lead evaporate and found itself desperately fighting to keep its season alive against Pleasant Grove on Friday.

Trailing by four points with the length of the field in front of them, the Titans engineered an 80-yard drive that took every bit of the two minutes and 14 seconds left on the clock and ended with a game-winning touchdown as time expired.

With 1.2 seconds left, quarterback Braden Hamblin took the final snap of the game and hit Rick Reardon on an eight-yard slant pattern in the end zone, giving Syracuse a dramatic 27-25 win and a berth in the 5A state semifinals.

"These kids have battled all year long," Syracuse coach Russ Jones said. "Adversity some way or another, they have battled it all year long. They don't want to lose."

For most of the game, Syracuse looked likely to run away with a comfortable victory. Through three quarters, Pleasant Grove had no answer for Hamblin and the Titans' spread running game.

With a 14-3 lead at halftime, Syracuse took the second-half kickoff and marched 76 yards down the

field, taking nearly nine minutes off the clock to go up 21-3. But, from that point on, the Vikings pulled out all the stops and stormed into the lead with three unanswered touchdowns.

"None of us were prepared to lose," Pleasant Grove coach Dale Sampson said. "It would have been nice if we'd played a little better in the first half, but it was a tribute to these guys. They came back and put those scores in and gave us a chance."

The Vikings scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass when Dallas Lloyd hit an uncovered Joey Owens curling out of the backfield down the sidelines.

Five minutes later, Sean Stevenson scored on a 25-yard draw and Lloyd dove into the end zone on the two-point conversion to make the score 21-18.

On the other side of the ball, Syracuse was hurt by penalties and had two drives end in missed field goals. Pleasant Grove capitalized and took a 25-21 lead when Lloyd hit Marshall Nielson over the middle for a 31-yard TD and a 25-21 lead with just over two minutes remaining.

"(Pleasant Grove) just did a couple of different looks and wrinkles that we hadn't seen on tape," Jones said. "They came out with everything they had to win."

Knowing it was their last chance, the Titans made no mistakes on the final drive and chipped their way down the field. A pass-interference penalty set them up on the eight-yard line for the final play, and Hamblin's bullet pass was right on the money for Reardon.

"We felt like they were coming after us and we were going to try and find an open area right there in the middle," Jones said. "That's two good ball players right there — the kid throwing it and the kid catching it."

Pleasant Grove scored on a Josue Meza field goal in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead. Hamblin threw touchdown passes of seven and two yards to Reardon in the second quarter to put the Titans ahead at halftime.

Syracuse will face Alta next Thursday in the 5A semifinals.