Wilsonville escapes with a 17-14 win on a field goal at the buzzer

WILSONVILLE — Sandy faced countless tough breaks and questionable calls throughout the night, but the Pioneers pushed through most of the adversity at Wilsonville, and had one play to overcome it completely.

With the game tied 14-14, the Wildcats lined up for an 18-yard field goal from the left hash with nine seconds left. The snap was high, giving four Sandy players a chance to block the kick from Harry England. England connected quickly with the ball as the Pioneers stretched their arms higher than they thought they could. The ball fluttered just inches over the Pioneer fingers and split the uprights, giving Wilsonville a 17-14 victory.

“That’s football,” Sandy coach Joe Polamalu said. “That was a great example of two teams battling. It’s hard to swallow that, but it had nothing to do with the effort of our kids. There was never a minute, never a second, when they stopped competing.”

The bad luck started for Sandy in the first quarter when a 19-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Barnett to Ryan Skidmore was waved off when Skidmore was called for pass interference.

Running back Andrew Funk then became the center of some controversy, and the Pioneers were dealt an unexpected blow. Funk, who gave the Pioneers a 7-0 lead on their first possession with a 3-yard touchdown run, was aiding another sustained drive on their next possession. Just as Sandy approached the red zone, a mysterious flag appeared on the field. After a lengthy discussion with Polamalu and Funk, the head referee announced the infraction – an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Funk, because the spikes on his cleats were deemed to be too long.

“It was a judgment call, and they made it,” Polamalu said. “In all my time around football, I have never seen that.”

The unheard-of call cost the Pioneers 15 yards, taking them out of field goal range. The ruling also resulted in Funk being ejected from the game, leaving Sandy without its starting running back.

C.J. McKinnis rose to the occasion and ran for 110 yards in the game, but Sandy relied on its two-back system all season, and Funk’s absence hurt.

Sandy took another hit with five minutes left in the second quarter when Barnett got banged up on a quarterback sneak. Again, a Pioneer stepped up. Backup quarterback Dakota Dixon came in and gashed Wilsonville’s defense on his second play under center. On a keeper, he weaved his way to the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown, putting the Pioneers up 14-0.

The Pioneers took that lead into the second half, but the Wildcats cut the deficit in half on another head-scratching call by the officials. From the Sandy 24-yard line, Wilsonville running back Derek Sunkle bounced off multiple tacklers and had one man to beat to reach the end zone. Sunkle got hit inside the 5-yard line and stretched the ball out toward the paint. The ball popped out of his hand just as it reached the goal line and Sandy recovered it, but the official had already ruled it a touchdown.

Wilsonville tied the game on the second play of the fourth quarter when quarterback Elijah Benedick hit receiver Brandon Chao on a quick slant that went for a 21-yard touchdown.

Sandy got two more possessions, but both ended it punts. The last punt pinned the Wildcats deep, just five yards from their own goal line. Wilsonville ate up the final five minutes and drove 94 yards to the Sandy 1-yard line to set up the winning field goal.

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