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Wray eliminates Cardinals

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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PARACHUTE – Yeah, it’s been a long time.Fans and players were reminded of that as Led Zeppelin’s words “been a long time” blasted through the speakers and the Grand Valley Cardinals football team lined up to receive the kickoff in its first playoff game since 1999.The music must have helped pump the Cardinals up, as less than four minutes later Grand Valley had compiled a 60-yard, nine-play drive to take a 7-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the next 44 minutes didn’t go their way and the Wray Eagles defeated Grand Valley, 18-7, ending the Cardinals’ Class 1A playoff run in the first round and changing the speaker’s tune to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” as fans exited the stadium.After yielding the initial lead, Wray’s defense showed up. Grand Valley turned the ball over five times and converted only one of eight third downs. The usually high-scoring offensive machine was held to 104 yards on the ground, 92 of which came from senior running back Danny Manzanares, who also fumbled the ball twice. Senior quarterback Richard Gallegos went 7-for-13 for 102 yards, but threw two interceptions.”The turnovers are the biggest part,” said Wray head coach Levi Kramer. “We didn’t have an answer for some of the stuff they did, but we got some turnovers and got our offense in some good field position.”

Wray earned its first score four seconds into the second quarter after a 2-yard Aaron Orr quarterback keeper capped an 80-yard drive. After the TD, the Cardinals blocked the kick to hang on to a 7-6 lead.Later in the second quarter, the Eagles fumbled, and Jesse Forney recovered the ball for Grand Valley at midfield. The Cardinals charged down the field with help from a 21-yard pass from Gallegos to Tyler Jensen, but Manzanares fumbled on the 20-yard line to kill the drive. “It’s been there all year, every game,” Jensen said of the connection between him and Gallegos. “Then today we got some big plays and we thought we were going to capitalize on them but it didn’t happen. We had scoring drives inside the 20 and turned the ball over. That’s what it came down to.”Grand Valley carried the one-point lead into the half, but during halftime the skies turned black and thunder echoed throughout the stadium. The storm stayed away for the most part, but Grand Valley’s condition on the field deteriorated severely.



On Grand Valley’s first possession of the half, Eagle Garrett Travis intercepted a Gallegos pass at midfield. On Wray’s next possession, Grand Valley missed an opportunity to get a turnover of its own when a would-be interception slipped through the hands of Colton Cowan. On the next play, Orr dumped a 15-yard pass to Corey Blecha, who faked out two tacklers as he crossed the field before scampering down the sidelines for a 54-yard scoring play.”Those things in a game like this are the difference,” said Grand Valley head coach Mike Johnson of the momentum-shifting two plays. “Inexperience I’m sure hurt us at some point in time, but they just made plays.”Grand Valley’s Cole Kraft, who had three sacks in the game, dropped Orr for a 9-yard loss on a two-point conversion attempt to keep the Cards within five.

With less than 10 minutes left in the game, Grand Valley sealed its own doom on a reverse to Jensen who, as he attempted to pass the ball, was hit on the arm. What was left of his pass bounced off a helmet and into the hands of an Eagle, who then ran 30 yards for Wray’s final score. Jensen blocked the extra point to make the score 18-7 Wray.Despite being down, Grand Valley didn’t give up. The Cardinals marched down the field, once again with the help of a 25-yard Gallegos-Jensen connection, and faced a first and 10 on the 16. With 6:40 left, Manzanares fumbled the ball on first down. This time, the Cardinals couldn’t bounce back, ending their season with an 8-2 record.”I’m way proud of this group. They’ve been great, I’ve enjoyed coaching them,” Johnson said. “They have nothing to hang their heads about. We came in with probably the most undersized team all around, but our kids just battle. I’ll take this group of kids and their heart and their work ethic any day.” In its impressive season, Grand Valley showcased some of its younger talent in players like sophomores Cowan and Kraft, junior Matt Cain and junior wideout Jensen, who had five receptions for 89 yards against Wray. But just like “Closing Time” says “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Grand Valley will lose five seniors – Manzanares, Gallegos, Forney, Derrick Maxfield and Dan Wisdom.


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