The trick play was called with 30 seconds left by head coach Dave Humphers of Nevada Union as his team trailed Grant of Sacramento, 21-19, in a matchup in Grass Valley between the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the Sacramento area.
With the home crowd on its feet, Miners' quarterback Jarad Van Matre threw a pass to the left toward receiver Steven Davis. But Davis had stepped back slightly and instead of trying to make a move against a Grant defender, he threw a legal double pass back toward the other side of the field where Van Matre made the catch and ran into the end zone for the winning touchdown.
Nevada Union clinched a Metro League championship with the win and will get a home game in next week's first round of the Division I section playoffs. The Miners, rated No. 17 in the state, also completed their third unbeaten regular season in four years.
"I'm so happy we pulled this off," Humphers told a Sacramento TV station. "It's probably one of the most memorable wins I've ever had and these kids really deserve it."
Grant, which fell to 8-2 with its other loss coming by 24-6 to Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, took its fourth quarter lead on a 29-yard pass from Worrell Williams to Syd Thompson. For the second straight year, the Pacers will head to the playoffs with a much more difficult opening game than Nevada Union.
In the other two major showdowns in the section on Friday, running back Billy Smith rushed for 297 yards and scored three touchdowns as Lincoln of Stockton surged past St. Mary's, 41-27, and running back Matt Alfaro scored five touchdowns as Oakdale drubbed Sonora, 34-14, before nearly 10,000 at legendary Dunleavy Field.
Lincoln beat a St. Mary's team that was 8-1 coming in and eager to erase any thoughts of last year's 68-6 crushing defeat. The Rams did a lot of damage on short passes to Roger Brunswick and Anthony Crosby, but a pair of first half turnovers and an inablity to stop the Lincoln offense at all did them in.
Smith, a junior who now has more than 1,600 yards on the season, carried 23 times to account for his yards. His 58-yard TD on the second play of the second quarter gave the Trojans a 21-7 lead. Smith scored again a few minutes later on a nine-yard pass reception from quarterback Brian Korinek and added another score with one second left in the third quarter that upped the advantage to 41-19.
Earlier in the game, Korinek had two other scoring passes and capped Lincoln's scoring in the fourth quarter on a seven-yard run. He finished with six completions in eight attempts for 132 yards.
St. Mary's had the lead tied in the early going at 7-7 on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Barry Enright to Crosby. The fleet junior had a 45-yard TD catch later in the game on virtually the same play, although the second one was thrown by fellow junior Willy Tuitama. Enright ended with nine completions in 16 attempts for 147 yards and two TDs. Tuitama cleaned up in the fourth quarter and wound up 13 of 22 for 222 yards and two more scores. Brunswick benefitted from the short passing game the most and had a season-high 13 catches for 160 yards. Crosby ended with four catches for 152 yards. Both had two TD catches.
Lincoln, ranked 12th in the state, will host Johansen of Modesto in its first round Division I playoff game next week, while St. Mary's will move on as the No. 2 team from the San Joaquin Athletic Association. There's more than a good chance that the two teams will meet in the section semifinals in three weeks.
For Alfaro and his Oakdale teammates, the muddy, slippery conditions of the evening turned out to be perfect. After giving up an early 12-yard scoring run to Sonora quarterback Jeff Hess, the Mustangs took control later in the first half on scoring runs of 33 and 30 yards by Alfaro. The running back's three-yard TD run in the fourth quarter capped a five-TD night and one he'll never forget.
"It's great, but the only thing that would be better is going to UOP and winning the section title," Alfaro told a Sacramento TV station.
Oakdale coach Trent Merzon added: "Toward the end of the season, we've definitely been playing our best football."
The Sonora-Oakdale rivalry goes back to 1922 and this is the third time in five years that the winner would be earning the Valley Oak League championship. This year's game, though, was even bigger as it was the only 9-0 vs. 9-0 matchup in the state for the weekend.
The only section in the state that still has regular season games remaining next weekend is the San Diego Section, which will be making up a full slate of games lost on the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 weekend due to the massive wildfires.