Ferris football made like Houdini Friday night with a great escape, winning 14-7 at Central Valley, propelling the Saxons into the State 4A semifinals for the second straight year.
The Saxons scored on two long fourth-quarter drives to defeat the host Bears, but the final score doesn’t begin to describe CV’s dominance and Ferris’ good fortune as the victors came alive.
For three quarters the Bears had run and passed up and down the field, only to shoot themselves in the foot. The defense, except for the first series of the game, utterly stymied the Saxons’ offense.
“They had us on the ropes,” said Garrett Saiki, whose catch over the middle and cutting run for 25 yards gave Ferris the victory with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
“We were fortunate to only be down 7-0 at halftime,” Saxons coach Jim Sharkey said.
CV dropped an end-zone pass less than a minute before intermission and subsequently had a field-goal attempt blocked.
In the third quarter, the Bears piled up 143 yards of offense, while the defense limited Ferris to a mere 17. CV’s defense was so good the Saxons ran only 18 plays in the middle two periods.
But the Bears twice fumbled in the third period deep inside Saxons territory, once when the ball was punched free from quarterback Blake Bledsoe as he struggled for yardage at the 3-yard line. They also missed a field goal to open the fourth quarter.
That last missed scoring opportunity was one too many.
In two series, the Saxons piled up 182 yards of offense as quarterback Connor Halliday, just 2 of 10 passing with two interceptions to this point, completed 9 of 13 for 154 yards and both scores.
“Connor came alive,” Sharkey said. “We had a couple under routes on them that loosened things up and he made a couple of huge throws, including a third-and-13 out that was a college-level throw.”
Aaron Roberts had struggled holding onto the ball for most of the night, but he caught the last five thrown his way and finished with six for 88 yards.
One was for the first touchdown and another, an end-over-end wobbler, went for 23 yards to set up Saiki’s winning score.
“Offensively, we couldn’t get anything going, but we kind of got together and said we weren’t going to end it like this,” Roberts said. “Connor made some great throws and found the open guys. It wasn’t just me.”
Saiki began as the focal point of a ground game that accounted for 60 of the Saxons’ 97 first-half yards on the first series. In the fourth quarter, he caught three passes, including the winner. For the game, Saiki rushed three times for 63 yards and his catches covered 41 more.
“We put in new plays for me to keep them from keying us,” Saiki said of his two early runs, one for 31 yards. “They stopped our running game eventually and we went to what was working all year.”
CV had the football for 17 of 24 minutes in the middle two quarters. Following Kyle Riordan’s interception, the Bears covered 37 yards for a 7-0 lead with 7:39 left in the first half.
Late in the period, they drove 70 yards only to drop a golden scoring opportunity.
Two promising third-quarter drives ended with Bledsoe turnovers blunting an otherwise brilliant night.
Bledsoe completed 16 of 26 passes covering 193 yards and rushed for 71 yards in the second half. Michael Williams caught six passes for 75 yards and Greg Barnes seven for 73.
Tyler Simmet rushed for 62 yards and scored CV’s touchdown. The Bears outgained Ferris 357-298.
But Ferris proved resilient for the third time in two years, coming back against CV after trailing at halftime.
“We started off strong and had stuff going, then in the second quarter the wheels came off,” Sharkey said. “ But we kept hanging in there. They found a way to win. We were very, very fortunate.”
The Saxons will be home next weekend against the winner of today’s game between Auburn and Skyline, which are both 11-0.