Evergreen’s Brig Walker and Mountain View’s Matt Hoss played a game of “top this” Thursday night at McKenzie Stadium.
Walker made the last of several big plays, though, leading the Plainsmen to a 19-15 victory over the Thunder and giving Evergreen its first outright Class 4A Greater St. Helens League football championship.
Corey Fredericks scored from 1 yard out with 19 seconds left in the game to cap the rally. It also ended the scoring in one wild four-minute span for the title.
Mountain View scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes — both by Hoss — and both were answered by Evergreen.
Walker gave the Plainsmen a 12-8 lead on a 39-yard scoring pass from quarterback Kyle Miller with 2:51 left.
Then, after Hoss’ second touchdown, MIller came through again, this time with a fourth-and-3 reception over a Mountain View defender for a 32-yard gain to the 1-yard line.
That’s where Fredericks took over for the win.
Evergreen (8-1, 7-0 GSHL) will host a Tuesday playoff game. Mountain View (7-2, 6-1), the defending league champion, will hit the road Tuesday as the league’s second seed.
“I saw his catch, and it lifted us up,” Fredericks said of Walker’s fourth-down grab. “He brought our spirits up. I scored the touchdown, but it was all him. It was all Brig.”
“He wanted it more, and he got it,” the quarterback said. “It was all Brig.”
Walker, though, was having none of it.
“It wasn’t a two-man show,” he said of him and Hoss. “It was an 11-man show on our part. Football is the one sport you have to rely on the 10 other people on the field. You can’t do it alone.”
Walker even said his final catch was a team effort.
“When the ball’s in the air, it’s like a fumble in the air.” he said. “I wasn’t about to turn it over at the end of the game. Ten other guys did their job to get me the ball. It was my responsibility to do it for them.”
The game, played in a constant downpour, was a quarterback’s nightmare for most of the contest. But the offenses got going near the end of the game.”
“It was horrible. It couldn’t get any worse,” Miller said. “The ball was waterlogged, and we were soaked. I don’t know how we did it.”
Evergreen coach Cale Piland said he never felt like the game was lost, even after Mountain View took the lead with 58 seconds left.
“I know we had almost a minute left, and we had the athletes on our side of the ball,” he said. “It just took a while for it to get clicking. That was two great football teams battling all night long.
“It was almost like two different football games. It was a defensive battle all night, then it turned into who was going to have the ball last.”
Mountain View’s last-ditch effort ended with two incomplete passes, setting off a free-for-all at midfield by the Evergreen fans.
Mountain View coach Mike Woodward gave credit to the Plainsmen.
“They just seemed to have the athletes who know how to make plays when they needed them most,” Woodward said. “Walker is a heck of an athlete, and I was really impressed with Miller. They showed a lot of poise.”
Two times in those closing minutes, the Mountain View magic looked to be working. Hoss made a spectacular catch-and-run, spinning out of the arms of one tackler and breaking through another defender for a 40-yard scoring connection from Ben Huebschman.
That put Mountain View ahead 8-5 after the 2-point conversion.
Walker scored two minutes later, setting up another Huebschman-Hoss combo.
Only this time, it was more than one play. Hoss had five receptions in the eight-play drive, including a diving catch for a first down and another diving grab to get to the 7-yard line. His final catch came in the end zone between two defenders for a 15-12 lead.
“It’s unbelievable that they could come back on us like that,” Hoss said. “I guess they decided to step it up.”
Until the closing minutes, nothing seemed to work against each team’s defense — and Mother Nature. The squads combined for seven turnovers. Mountain View, which led the league in scoring, didn’t pick up a first down until the second quarter.
Evergreen opened the game with a 16-play drive, ending on a 30-yard field goal by Nick Fleck.
That was the last sustained drive until the second half.
Evergreen got two more points when Huebschman was called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety late in the second quarter.
Both quarterbacks, known for putting up huge numbers, struggled in the rain. And then they got it going toward the end, setting up a finish that players from both teams won’t forget.
The win gave Piland, in his second year as the head coach at Evergreen, his first title.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Our kids have really bought into the program,” Piland said. “To watch everything you teach them come together on the field, I can’t explain it.”
The Thunder didn’t hide their disappointment after the loss, but they know how their season is not complete.
“I think we can bounce back,” Hoss said. “This will motivate us a lot. We’re going to go far.”