Gaston takes down 3A Riverdale on a last-second, last-gasp touchdown pass from Ryan Lewis to Josh Breidenbach
Gaston notched an improbable victory Friday night, scoring a touchdown with no time left on the clock to beat Riverdale 20-18 in a non-conference football showdown.
Trailing 18-14 with two seconds left and the ball at the 8-yard line, Gaston quarterback Ryan Lewis dropped back and lofted a pass into the end zone for tight end Nick Brunswick. Three Riverdale defenders converged on the ball and tipped it away from Brunswick, but the pass took a fortuitous tumble into the waiting arms of wideout Josh Breidenbach, who slipped behind the defense to nab the game-winning touchdown.
'It was like we won the Super Bowl,' said Gaston head coach Mike Maraia. 'The kids and the coaches were jumping around celebrating. It was a great, great win. I've won games before, but to win a game like that - there's just no words to describe how it feels.'
The Greyhounds covered 62 yards in the final 1:30 to win the game. A pass interference call on a throw intended for Brunswick gave Gaston a huge first down near midfield, and with 20 seconds left Lewis hooked up with Parker Bolden for a 35-yard strike that moved the ball down to the 3-yard line.
With nine ticks left on the clock, Maraia called for a run straight up the gut, but it was stuffed and the Hounds were forced to burn their last time out with two seconds remaining. In the huddle, Breidenbach suggested running a fade route to the corner of the end zone, but Maraia instead had him run a skinny post across the back of the end zone.
It wound up being the perfect call, as Lewis' throw into triple coverage bounced straight into the hands of Breidenbach for the game-winner.
'I told the kids after the game that sometimes you've got to be lucky to win games,' said Maraia. 'The score doesn't really indicate what the game was like. We pretty much dominated. (Riverdale) only had two big plays. Without those, they probably wouldn't even have scored.'
Gaston piled up huge yardage on the ground, rushing for over 300 yards behind the tandem of Andrew Kendall and Ryan Pursley. Kendall had 17 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns, while Pursley carried 17 times for 165 yards.
It would have been hard to predict a Gaston victory after the first half, however, as the Hounds were thoroughly outplayed en route to a 12-0 halftime deficit.
'In the first half we played pretty much like we did in the fourth quarter last week,' said Maraia, referring to Gaston's late-game meltdown against Vernonia, giving up 27 points in the final eight minutes.
'It was a good comeback in the second half, but the first half was horrendous.'
Gaston turned the ball over three times in the first half and Riverdale capitalized, getting a touchdown midway through the first quarter and another just before halftime to take a 12-0 lead.
Riverdale quarterback Kane Henderson hooked up with wideout Evan Peterson on scoring strikes of 38 and 35 yards, the latter coming on the final play of the first half to give the Mavericks a 12-0 edge at the break.
Gaston finally got on the board with its first possession of the second half, marching 60 yards and striking paydirt on a 12-yard Kendall run to cut the deficit to 12-6.
In the fourth quarter, Riverdale was driving for an insurance score when Bolden caused a fumble and fell on it at the Hounds' 27-yard line, setting up a 73-yard touchdown drive that would put Gaston on top.
A huge chunk of that yardage came on a fake punt, with Pursley taking a direct snap and rumbling 56 yards down to the 8-yard line. Kendall once again finished off the drive, plunging into the end zone on the next play to tie things up. Lewis connected with Brunswick on a two-point conversion to give the Hounds a 14-12 cushion with a shade under five minutes remaining.
'They were driving when Parker stripped the ball from their running back,' said Maraia. 'That was a key play. We just turned it up from there.'
Undeterred, Riverdale marched down the field and scored to go back on top with 1:49 left in the game. A holding call set up third-and-goal from the 17, but Henderson once again connected with Peterson, this time for 16 yards to move the ball down to the 1. On fourth down, Henderson kept the ball and dove into the end zone for an 18-12 Riverdale lead.
A squib kick gave Gaston possession on its own 38-yard line with about a minute and a half remaining. After picking up a first down, the Greyhounds faced fourth-and-eight near midfield. Lewis tossed a pass to Brunswick, but Riverdale was flagged for pass interference, giving Gaston a first down and moving the Hounds into Riverdale territory.
A Kendall run up the middle netted 4 yards, but an incomplete pass brought up third-and-six. In the huddle, Bolden said that he could get open and he kept his promise, burning a defender and hauling in a 35-yard pass from Lewis to move the ball down to the 3-yard line with nine seconds left.
'It was an amazing game,' said Maraia. 'The kids were really excited. We know we're a good team, but right now we haven't really showed much. If you watched the tape of our first two games, you'd probably say, 'Wow, those guys stink.' But I know we're a good team. We just have to work on cutting down on our mistakes.'
Next up for Gaston (1-1) is its home opener against Sheridan, currently the No. 12 ranked 3A team in the state. Maraia knows his team has its work cut out.
'Sheridan is for real. They're big and they're good,' he said. 'We've got to eliminate the mistakes, but those are the problems that are easy to fix. We just have to discipline ourselves better.
'This will be a good measuring stick to see where we're at. I think it will help get us ready for league play.'
Friday's game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Gaston High School.