Sandy comes up a yard short on a two-point try to tie the game

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Andrew Spencer crashes into the Summit quarterback as he releases the ball Friday night. Sandy’s football team stumbled upon its sloppiest game of the season at the worst possible time. The Pioneers turned the ball over five times, and made a host of other mistakes, as their season came to an end with a 32-30 loss to Summit in Friday’s play-in qualifier.

“At this time of year, every team you play is going to be good enough to take advantage of opportunities,” Sandy coach Joe Polamalu said. “If you don’t take care of the ball and you let teams hang around long enough, they will take advantage, and Summit did that. That is what we can learn from in the future.”

Even with all the blunders, the Pioneers still had a chance to force overtime. They trailed by eight points when they took possession at their own 25-yard line with eight minutes remaining. Sandy methodically moved the ball into Summit territory, then Garrett Rotzien slipped through the line and peeled off a 28-yard run. C.J. McKinnis rumbled into the end zone from 19 yards out on the following play.

With 4:26 left, Sandy tried to tie the game by going for the two-point conversion, but the run up the middle was stuffed at the 1-yard line. The Pioneers still had two timeouts, so a defensive stand on the ensuing Summit drive could have gotten them the ball back. Sandy forced the Storm into a 4th-and-1 situation with 50 seconds left, but the Pioneers jumped offside to give Summit a first down. The Storm then took a knee and ran out the clock.

“It’s definitely a hard thing to go through, being so close (to the playoffs),” Polamalu said. “In football, things can be really fun one moment, then it can be gone the next.”

The turnovers and miscues that handcuffed the Pioneers came early and haunted the team all night. On Sandy’s first offensive play, quarterback Spencer Barnett dropped back to pass and after holding his ground in the pocket, found an open receiver down the right sideline. Barnett fired before getting hit, but it was intercepted and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.

The pick-six was only the beginning and should have served as a warning for what the rest of the game held for the Pioneers. They gave the ball away on four other occasions, costing them dearly on the scoreboard. Sandy’s three second-half turnovers were the ones that really hurt.

To open the third quarter, Sandy started with fantastic field position when it returned the kickoff to the 50-yard line. A sack moved the Pioneers back to the 42-yard line, but on 3rd-and-18, Barnett dropped off a screen pass to McKinnis who took it 39 yards and gave Sandy a new set of downs in the red zone. A few plays later, Sandy running back Andrew Funk got hit as he tried to gain a few extra yards, and the ball popped out. Summit recovered on the 11-yard line.

Sandy again had great field position after recovering a fumble at its own 40-yard line on the final play of the third quarter. On the first play of the drive, Summit got away with a hold at the line of scrimmage and picked off a Barnett pass at the Storm 34-yard line. The interception was taken 50 yards the other way, choking out another solid Sandy opportunity in the process.

The Pioneer offense went back to work a few minutes later with 83 yards standing between it and the end zone. Before the drive could get going, the Summit defense came up with another interception on a tipped ball and took it down to the 1-yard line. The Storm quickly turned the pick into the touchdown that ended up being the difference in the game.

In spite of all the errors, Sandy stayed in the game by hanging tough and responding well. On the Pioneers’ first offensive play after the early pick-six, McKinnis bolted down the left side of the field for a 64-yard touchdown. Following the fumble to start the second half, Rotzien intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. McKinnis saved Sandy from its fourth-quarter interception by intercepting a Summit pass in the end zone. But for all the answers Sandy had, there were still a few too many mistakes to make up for.

Summit moves on to play West Albany in the first round of the state playoffs. Sandy finished the season with a record of 6-4.

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