Box score

SALEM — Maple Mountain football managed to put all its struggles behind it in squeezing out a thrilling 35-28 double overtime win over Salem Hills on Wednesday.

Despite giving up 21 points to the Skyhawks in the final six minutes of regulation, the Golden Eagles heeded the message of their head coach Brad Burtenshaw to embrace the overtime opportunity.

“I feel like there’s always one team that wants to be there and one team that doesn’t,” Burtenshaw said, before asking his kids, “‘Which team are we?’ So I think that settled them down, and think, ‘If we make a couple of plays here, then all the bad stuff doesn’t matter.’”

Three standout plays, as it were, with Maple Mountain defensive back Brian Bess picking off a pass on the very first play of the overtime period to set his team up with a prime opportunity. But as fate would have it, the Golden Eagles fumbled the exchange on a handoff to send it to a second overtime period after just two plays from scrimmage.

The Golden Eagles received the first possession in the second overtime, with quarterback Tyler Nelson running it in from seven yards out to put his team up 35-28 for the second big play of the overtime period.

The third big play came with Maple Mountain defensive back Bryson Bliss diving to pick off an intended pass to the flat to effectively end the game and send the Golden Eagle sideline into a raucous celebration.

“They got us with that play a couple of times in a row, so I knew I needed to watch it,” Bliss said. “I just needed to get underneath it...It feels so good and we’ve worked so hard for it. I knew we could do it.”

Maple Mountain played like a team completely in control for 42 of the game’s 48 minutes, building a 21-0 lead toward the end of the third quarter, and then a 28-7 lead with just over eight minutes remaining. But the home team Skyhawks refused to go away quietly and managed three touchdowns in the final six minutes of regulation play.

The first came with Jarret Elmer hitting Willy Leota with a 21-yard touchdown with 5:59 left to cut the lead to 28-14. Then it was Elmer throwing identical passes to Austin Hallows from four yards out with 2:59 left to cut the lead to 28-21, and then against with 29.7 seconds left to tie things at 28-28.

Setting up the offensive opportunities was the Salem Hills defense holding the Golden Eagles to three straight 3-and-outs.

But rather than accept the brutal hand dealt during the final six minutes, Maple Mountain decided to work it out, eventually coming out on top of both the game and the Region 8 standings, as a result.

“We’ve been in other tough situations this year and they’ve kept their composure,” Burtenshaw said. “Hat’s off to Salem, that was a heck of a job by them, but our kids made a play when they had to. We were one play better.”