The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And when it all happens in the last second of the game, it feels just like that.
With one second left, Da’Juan Brown threw the game-tying touchdown pass to Chris Mosley and ran in the two-point conversion to give Spring Mountain a 36-34 home victory over Pahranagat Valley on Friday.
It was the first league loss for the Panthers since 2002.
Brown completed 26 of 41 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns for the Golden Eagles (6-1, 4-0). He now has 1,017 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
Brown also rushed for 72 yards and threw four interceptions, three of them to Pahranagat’s John Hanson.
“Passing is our strength. That’s our bread and butter, and we have a lot of great athletes to put in position to be successful,” said Eagles’ coach Aaron Masden.
After only a few running attempts by Mosley, Spring Mountain turned exclusively to the pass, almost always underneath the Panthers’ zone coverage, the key to their effectiveness. Masden said their running game was to be the quarterback draw, which the Panthers usually do a good job defending.
Mosley had six catches for 33 yards and two scores.
The real excitement came in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 22-20 at that point, the Panthers came alive, getting an interception that resulted in a Preston Higbee score. They then recovered the onside kick and Higbee engineered another drive for his third rushing touchdown of the day, setting up a 34-22 lead with only 2:36 remaining in the game.
But Brown, the one-man show for Spring Mountain, used his short passes to move the Eagles to the three-yard line, where he ran it in to cut the score to 34-28.
Pahranagat Valley mishandled the onside kick, giving the Eagles the ball about midfield. Again, Brown scrambled around in the backfield until someone was open to make the catch.
The Eagles moved toward the goal line and, with five seconds remaining in the game, Brown ran the ball to the one-yard line, then promptly spiked the ball to gain one more down with one second remaining.
Defense of the running game was the strength of both teams as neither could move the ball along the ground very well. Unfortunately, Pahranagat Valley lacked the bruising strength of junior Reece Thornton, out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL.
The Eagles opened the scoring on their first possession with a 10-yard TD pass from Brown to Mosley at 3:30 in the first period.
A Spring Mountain turnover in the final minute of the first period gave the ball to the Panthers, who moved it to the one-yard line where Higbee dove in for the score at 10:54 in the second period, but they missed the conversion try.
But on the first play after taking the kickoff, Brown connected with Da’Qwan Samuels, who made a one-handed catch on a 48-yard touchdown to extend Spring Mountain’s lead to 14-6.
To match that, Pahranagat came right back less than a minute later with a 48-yard scoring pass from Higbee to Paul Lewis.
The Eagles added another score before the break to lead at halftime, 22-12.
Higbee had three rushing touchdowns for Pahranagat Valley (5-1, 3-1), which had won 17 consecutive games including last year’s unbeaten state championship run.
Spring Mountain is the only team to have beaten the Panthers in league play since 2002, when PVHS lost the 1A Southern League championship to Indian Springs.
The Panthers closed out the season on Thursday this week in Alamo with league newcomer Green Valley (2-5, 2-2).
Spring Mountain is on the road at Beaver Dam (2-5, 0-4).
The NIAA playoff format for the first round will have Pahranagat Valley at the Central League champion, Tonopah, or at Mineral County in Hawthorne, Nov. 2.
The unbeaten Muckers (8-0, 3-0) and Mineral County (5-3, 3-0) will meet to decide the championship Oct. 25 in Hawthorne.
Spring Mountain will host the loser either Nov. 2 or 3 in their first round playoff match.
After the game, Panthers’ coach Brett Hansen said it was a matter of who executed better. “They did, and we didn’t. It comes down to making plays. We struggled the first half. They know we like to run the ball, and we didn’t do it very well that first half.”
If the teams meet again in the state championship game, Nov. 17, Hansen said he knows he will have to “plan and practice better for our players to be in places to make plays to counter their passing game.”