MALTA • The ball descended into Bridger Cranney’s hands and chaos descended upon the Snake River Conference.
Snatching away a win in hostile territory, Oakley felled state No. 1 and bitter rival Raft River 35-34 to force a three-way tie atop the conference Friday evening.
“That’s a classic right there, just to be able to keep playing,” Oakley coach Bryan Flake said. “Things weren’t going our way and then we came up with that one last play.”
Trailing 34-29 with less than half a minute remaining, Oakley dialed up a play it had just installed this week.
Senior Curtis Bedke, part of a multi-headed monster for the Hornets at running back, took the handoff on a reverse, motioned as if to run, then stopped. He dropped back, and for the first time in his life, threw a pass in an actual football game.
Cranney, a sophomore running back, was wide open to the left, caught the ball and entered the end zone untouched.
“We just put that play in this week,” Bedke said. “It was for a reason.”
With the win, Oakley somewhat avenged an earlier loss to Valley. The Vikings in turn lost to the Trojans the next week. The end result is a tie between the three teams that will be settled by a coin flip, in the event they all are 5-1 in league play at season’s end as anticipated.
The second half alone featured five lead changes and came after a first half in which each team mustered 20 points.
Until its late heroics, Oakley largely struggled to move the ball through the air. While the team’s first completions was a 30 yard touchdown strike from senior quarterback Will Cranney to Kwayd Wadsworth, the team was just 2-of-8 in the first half.
Cranney rotated with junior Mathew Pickett, a strategy Flake said helps keep the pair fresh.
Raft River senior quarterback Dalton Peterson was perhaps more consistent, but missed three of his final four passes in crunch time.
There was no doubting who his favorite target was Friday night. His first three pass attempts were all hauled in by senior wide receiver Wil Holtman. Were it not for stellar pass defense by Oakley, that streak would have reached four.
In all, Peterson’s first five completions went to Holtman. Holtman, whose younger brother Wacey remained sidelined and on crutches with an injury, finished with 136 yards on eight catches.
Raft River senior running back Max Boden continued a strong campaign 290 yards on 17 carries.
Each team saw fourth downs on numerous occasions in the first half and found varying levels of success. An early Oakley stop on fourth down on Raft River’s second drive helped set up the Hornets’ first lead of the game.
Later, a bad snap forced Oakley into fourth and 34. The Hornets had a short punt, and Boden uncorked a 44-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Boden tried for more heroics late, but a last-ditch run was stopped well short of pay dirt as time expired.
Oakley 35, Raft River 34
Oakley 12 8 3 12 —35
Raft River 6 14 6 8 —34
RR—Boden 2 run (run failed) 8:35
O—Bedke 3 run (run failed) 6:51
O—Wadsworth 30 pass from W. Cranney (kick failed) 1:30
RR—Peterson 1 run (Higley pass from Peterson) 8:37
RR—Boden 44 run (run failed) 6:38
O—Muhlestein 5 run (Muhlestein run) 1:27
O—Barre 25 FG 7:07
RR—Boden 30 run (run failed) 3:22
O—Muhlestein 5 run (pass failed) 11:13
RR—Boden 47 run (Peterson run) 3:38
O—B. Cranney 20 pass from Bedke (run failed) :18