Late in the fourth quarter of Heritage High’s 20-18 win over Deer Valley on Friday, the Patriots senior defensive lineman had a chance to put the game away for good. With Heritage up 20-12 and the Wolverines facing a fourth-and-seven near midfield, Johnson appeared to sack Deer Valley senior QB Mike Behr.
However, Johnson was called for a face mask penalty — fifteen yards and an automatic Wolverine first down. Deer Valley later scored on a touchdown pass from Behr to junior receiver Miles Walker and looked poised to tie it up. But Walker dove across the goal line, earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“It was a dumb mistake,” Walker said. “It was just the hype of the moment. It hurt us bad. … I just wasn’t thinking.”
Behr’s long two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Wolverines had hope after recovering an onside kick. This time, Johnson would redeem himself. Johnson and a few other Patriots sacked Behr on first down, then he earned a solo sack, knocking the Wolverines back another 13 yards. An interception by Heritage senior defensive back Charlie Renner sealed the win.
“I just tried to keep my head in the game and persevere,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I was going to get him at first. I was a little nervous.”
Heritage finished the regular season 8-2 (4-1 in Bay Valley Athletic League play) and will wait for Sunday to see where they will go for the North Coast Section playoffs. The Patriots claimed second place in the league, as Pittsburg clinched a title last week with a win over Freedom. Deer Valley is now 7-3 (4-2 BVAL) and should make the postseason, as well.
The victory wasn’t perfect, but Heritage head coach Jeff Haagenson said he’d take it.
“I’m not a victory, win-win guy. I want to see our team play well,” Haagenson said. “I’m not happy at all with the way we played.”
As has been the story all season long, the Patriots offense was almost entirely on the ground. Senior running back Kruger Story Jr. had another fine night, running for 143 yards on 17 carries. Junior RB Jeremiah Poti had 58 yards on eight carries and one touchdown. Senior Treyvon Hanna finished with 51 yards and one touchdown on seven rushes.
“I feel really good about the victory,” Story Jr. said. “I feel we could’ve corrected a couple mistakes here and there, but we were able to pull out the win.”
It was a run that got the scoring started, naturally. Both teams traded QB sneaks in the second quarter, giving Heritage a 7-6 lead at halftime. Heritage made it 14-6 in the third quarter on a 19-yard run by Poti. Two minutes later, Deer Valley answered with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Behr to senior halfback Lamontay Marshall.
Behr finished 6-for-11 with 151 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Marshall led the team in rushing, with 73 yards on 18 carries.
In the fourth quarter, Hanna scored from six yards out to make it a 20-12 game. Wolverines head coach Rich Woods praised his team’s ability to remain close with the Patriots.
“I’m really happy with the way they played,” Woods said. “They fought hard, came back and we just made a couple mistakes that young teams make.”
Heritage’s junior varsity team eked out a victory as well, winning 14-8. The Patriots finished their season 7-3 while Deer Valley fell to 5-5.
Check www.thepress.net on Sunday to see where BVAL teams will be headed for the NCS playoffs.