One yard separated the Grays Harbor Bearcats and the Renton Ravens on Saturday night.
Down for most of the contest, the Bearcats mustered one final drive before they were stopped one yard short of the goal line in the final seconds in an 18-12 exhibition semi-pro football loss at Stewart Field.
In a markedly defensive contest, it was one last defensive play that made the difference.
“We did more things this week, because we need to move up and improve,” Grays Harbor head coach Todd Hoiness said. “We made improvements. Maybe I overloaded them a bit, but we have to grow fast with league starting up next week. We played better in the fourth quarter than in the third, which is a positive.”
Grays Harbor (1-1 overall) got the ball at midfield with 4:11 remaining in the contest to begin its final drive.
First-year quarterback Tyler Gedney, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Saturday, took matters into his own hands to start. After a completed pass for a loss, Gedney ran twice and completed a 9-yard pass to Josiah Rhoads to move the Bearcats.
Following a quarterback sneak for a first down, Gedney hit wide receiver Loyal Linton for a 19-yard pass play to the Ravens’ 18-yard line. Running back Vincent McCrory sprinted 10 yards inside for a first-and-goal chance with 2 minutes left on the Ravens’ 8.
After McCrory was held to no yards on a first-down run, Gedney and wide receiver Daniel Hargrove nearly tied the game. On a fade pass to the far left corner of the end zone, Hargrove made the catch, but missed keeping one of his feet inbounds by inches to bring up third down.
Gedney hit McCrory on a swing pass, allowing McCrory to get to the 1-yard line with 55 seconds left in the game. On fourth down, Gedney pitched to McCrory wide right, allowing the speedy running back room to get momentum. However, McCrory was hit at the 3-yard line to stop his momentum and he was tackled at the 1-yard line to turn the ball over on downs.
Renton ran one play to run out the clock for the win.
“I’m kind of ticked at myself, because there were three things we could have done (on the final play),” Hoiness added. “The thing from last week to this week is that you aren’t as bad as you think you are and you’re not as good as you think you are. This is a stepping stone. Guys are stepping in. We just have to continue to grow.”
Grays Harbor got onto the scoreboard first with a short field late in the first quarter. Gedney, who finished with 100 yards passing on 13-for-23 attempts and two scores, got his first touchdown on a 6-yard fade pass to Linton for a 6-0 lead.
Linton was Gedney’s favorite receiver on the night with six catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bearcats’ defense was dominating play for the first 20 minutes of the game against the Ravens. The visitors had a net minus-31 yards of offense before E.J. Ash entered the game at running back. The former Kitsap Bear is familiar with the Bearcats — Ash rumbled for more than 100 yards against the Bearcats for a 28-20 Kitsap win in the Pacific Football League playoffs in 2010.
On his second carry of the game, Ash weaved through the Grays Harbor defense for a 48-yard touchdown run and a 6-6 tie in the second quarter. Ash finished with 82 yards rushing on 18 carries and two touchdowns, including 55 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half.
The Ravens took the lead just before halftime on Andre Jackson’s 14-yard fade pass for a touchdown to James Gaviria, who barely got one foot inbounds before crashing hard into the fence.
Ash made it 18-6 Ravens with a 7-yard touchdown run on Renton’s first drive of the second half. The running back had 38 yards rushing on five carries on the drive, which was powered by a 47-yard deep ball from Jackson to Gaviria.
Renton’s defense made life tough for Grays Harbor until Jackson fumbled the ball to the Bearcats at the Ravens’ 18-yard line. Three plays later, Gedney scrambled right, then turned left to fire a bullet pass to Linton, who planted himself inside the goal line at the near left corner for the score.
Grays Harbor quickly got the ball back by holding Renton to a 3-and-out drive to set up the final sequence.
On Saturday, Grays Harbor will begin Pacific Football League play by hosting the Portland Pitbulls at 6 p.m. at Stewart Field.