Canyon Springs had been in a slump when it came to winning close football games.
In the Pioneers’ season-opener Saturday, Bradley Alexander helped his team break out of that slide and end up on the right side of a narrow one.
Alexander rolled out right and tossed a pass to Marck Cassino in the end zone for a 2-point conversion in overtime to lift the Pioneers to a 16-15 victory over visiting Coronado.
“This is our first win in a close game in about three years, so it feels great,” said Alexander. “When he caught it, it was really a feeling of relief. I just felt so much emotion. It felt really good.”
The Pioneers scored the winning 2-pointer after Zaviontay Stevenson’s 7-yard touchdown run. He tried to run up the middle, ran into a pack of Cougars, then bounced outside to the left and beat the pursuit to the end zone.
Stevenson finished with 118 yards on 24 carries to lead the Pioneers.
“He has that vision. No matter what the play is, he always runs to daylight,” said Pioneer head coach Hunkie Cooper. “He bounced that out and made a good play on the cutback.”
After Alexander scored to cut the overtime deficit to 15-14, Cooper said there was no hesitation in going for the win.
“You always go for it at home,” said Cooper. “I lost doing that my first year as a head coach against Liberty. But this was gut check for us.”
Coronado took its first lead of the game in overtime, as quarterback John Farella scored on a keeper from 1-yard out on fourth down to put the Cougars ahead, 15-8.
Coronado tied the game with 45 seconds left in the third quarter, as Jackson Cofer scored on a 22-yard pass from Farella. Farella then found Tanner Gorski with a pass in the middle of the end zone on the 2-point conversion to tie it up at 8-8.
Farella led Coronado (0-2) with 133 yards on 22 of 36 passing.
Both teams had chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter with field goals. But Coronado missed from 40 yards with 6:37 left, and Canyon Springs’ 29-yard try was blocked with 21 seconds left in regulation.
Alexander drew first blood for the Pioneers on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score with 15 seconds left in the first half.
The score was set up by Alexander’s 27-yard pass to Jordan Davis one play earlier, as on fourth down and 10, Davis made a leaping reception and landed just short of the goal line.
“That’s my brother and he just went up and got it,” said Alexander, who connected on 14-of-26 passes for 194 yards for Canyon Springs. “Monday, I’m gonna go buy pizza for him.”
The Pioneers had outgained Coronado 151-76 in the first half but only had Alexander’s score to show for it after turning the ball over twice in the first half.
For the game, Canyon Springs outgained the Cougars 336-256, but lost five fumbles.
“We were productive offensively, but we turned the ball over and that is something you cannot do,” said Cooper. “That’s the way things are for us. Things go well, and then something bad happens.
“But I’m proud of the effort. We struggled through it, and this time we came out on top.”