The news Friday night at College of the Canyons was good for most of the game for Hart High, but better at the end for Quartz Hill.
While the Indians breathed a sigh of relief as injured quarterback Ryan Connors played the entire game and passed for 243 yards, it was Quartz Hill that survived the nonleague contest with a come-from-behind 21-20 victory that marked Quartz Hill's first win over Hart since 1980.
Quartz Hill (3-2) trailed, 18-7, in the third quarter but used two second-half touchdowns and a fumble recovery to win its second consecutive game in preparation for next week's Golden League opener against Canyon.
Still, Connors was nearly the story. The senior, suffering from back spasms, was listed as questionable 15 minutes before the kickoff by Hart Coach Mike Herrington. Connors completed 16 of 28 passes and said he felt "no pain at all." He inflicted a lot on the Rebels, though.
With his team trailing, 21-18, Connors took his team the length of the field in the last five minutes to set up what could have been the winning score.
But on second and goal from the two, Doug Distaso fumbled and Randy LaBrie recovered with only 1:58 left. Quartz Hill used four downs and took an intentional safety with 17 seconds left when quarterback Jake Haro scrambled around for 10 seconds before being tackled out of the end zone,
"When two good teams play like that, the difference between winning and losing is the breaks," Quartz Hill Coach John Albee said. "We finally got a break when it counted."
LaBrie said he recovered the ball after he and Joel Hansen hit Distaso simultaneously, with Hansen then kicking the ball out of Distaso's hands.
"I was lying on the ground, and there it was," LaBrie said.
Quartz Hill fell behind, 18-7, on the second half's first scrimmage play. Hart (2-3) recovered an onside kick and Connors then hit a streaking Distaso for a 40-yard score.
But it was Hart's last offensive hurrah. A play-action, fourth-down pass from Haro to Idrane Anderson was good for an eight-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter and Hart's lead was trimmed to 18-14.
Quartz Hill's final touchdown came on another big break. After Hansen returned a Hart punt 15 yards, he fumbled, but teammate Ralph Gutierrez fell on the ball 11 yards downfield and Quartz Hill had a first down on the Hart 19.
Four plays later, Erik Thomas bulled in from the two with 5:56 left and the Rebels led, 21-18. The run capped a fine game for the senior tailback, who gained a game-high 145 yards in 24 carries and scored two touchdowns.
So is Quartz Hill all the way back from its 1-2 start?
"Not really," Albee said. "But we play better against the run than the pass, and Canyon (next week) is a running team."
After missing the entire week of practice, Connors looked tentative and out of sync in Hart's first-quarter possessions. The Indians' first two possessions ended in punts and Connors completed only one of five passes.
But Hart got a break late in the first quarter when Hansen fumbled on the Rebel 37. Hart recovered and moved the ball in for the game's first score--a Distaso one-yard run--five plays later. A failed two-point conversion attempt left the Indians with a 6-0 lead.
But Quartz Hill's game plan called for clock-chewing, ground-oriented drives, and the Rebels were successful when they had to be. Quartz Hill took the lead after a 76-yard drive. Thomas, who finished the first half with 111 yards in 13 carries, scored on a three-yard run.
But the first half bore Connors' mark. Any question as to his durability was answered on Hart's next drive. It was vintage Connors as the Indians moved 80 yards in 11 plays. Connors completed seven of seven passes and even ran the ball three times, putting his head down into tacklers and not showing any signs of early game jitters.