Clinging to a 28-26 lead, the entire night boiled down to whether the Warriors could stop Pyramid Lake’s two-point conversion attempt.
Pyramid Lake sent in it’s finest, a 230-pound senior who had muscled his way into Whittell’s end zone three times already dragging a few defensive players with him. Trying to stop him was like setting out traffic cones in a freight trains path, but Whittell’s Alex Barnes made a stand.
The 175-pound senior threw all of his weight into the Pyramid Lake player barreling down on Whittell. Barnes dug in, and the behemoth Pyramid Lake player stalled at the 2. Whittell went on to win the Northern Division IV league game 28-26 at home on Friday.
Barnes’ contribution was subtle on Friday. For the enthusiastic home crowd, Max Primo’s three long touchdown runs are probably what stand out. Indeed, Primo’s speed kept the Warriors in a game against guys twice their size.
But it was Barnes who preserved the win twice in the final two minutes of Friday’s game.
There was the thwarted conversion attempt and then there was a third-and-three drive at the 46 on Whittell’s final possession.
Pyramid Lake still had plenty of time to score after its failed conversion. The Lakers just needed a quick turnover and they were burning through timeouts to keep that door open.
Quarterback Jake Sharp handed off to Barnes, who rushed for eight, but a penalty on the next play sent the Warriors back five. Sharp went to Barnes again and he took it six. The Warriors were still shy three yards by the third down, and Pyramid’s solid 200-plus pound defensive line didn’t look like it was going to give any more.
Barnes took it. He made a final leap and stretched for every extra inch as four Lakers closed in and smothered him to the ground. When the bodies cleared, Barnes’ carry was good for three, and the Warriors had won.
Primo and Tristan Beckwith, however, were the reasons Whittell was even in a winning position.
Pyramid Lake struck first. The Lakers were significantly bigger than the Warriors, and 230-pound Brady Harry muscled his way into the end zone dragging a few Whittell players with him. The conversion was good for an 8-0 lead.
Beckwith tied the game in the second quarter with a gutsy, and perhaps a bit crazy, play.
A fumble and penalty had backed the Warriors into a fourth-and-23 situation. When the ball snapped and players took off, Beckwith stayed crouched at the line of scrimmage with the ball tucked between his legs. As soon as the path cleared, he took off on a 26-yard touchdown run.
Head coach David Housel picked up the play from a Douglas coach named Mike Rippee, who would run it once or twice a year.
“It takes someone gutsy who can do that,” Housel said. “Guys will bump against him, and then he just goes.”
Beckwith ran for 79 yards on nine carries in the first half.
Harry answered back for Pyramid Lake before halftime, again muscling his way in on a seven-yard run, but this time the conversion failed.
But Primo was about to prove that speed is an equal match for size.
The running back dropped the kick return, recovered and ripped down the sideline for an 80-yard conversion to tie the game at 14-14 heading into half.
Primo did it again the first chance he got. Pyramid Lake drove the ball in for a touchdown on an eight-minute drive to open the second half.
Primo only needed 17 seconds to even the score. He against dropped the kick return, recovered and flew past Pyramid Lake for a 25-yard conversion.
“It’s unbelievable you think these guys have the angle and then he scored,” Housel said. “He’s never played before so he’s still learning, but you can’t teach speed.”
Barnes took in the two-point conversion and the Warriors finally led 22-20.
Primo used his speed to find the end zone a third time on the Warriors opening fourth quarter drive. The speedy running back broke off to the sideline and again took the ball on a long 57-yard touchdown run
Dismas Womack stepped up as safety to help the Warriors hold off Pyramid Lake with a couple key open-field tackles.
“I think he earned a spot to be out there from now on,” Housel said. “He did a great job and if we can keep him back there and move Tristan to the other end I think we’ve really found something.”
“The kids played really hard and even at the end I thought they did a good job of keeping their cool and playing classy.”
UP NEXT: Whittell is now 1-1 in league. The Warriors will host Smith Valley (1-1) at 7 p.m. on Friday.