All eyes were on Golden Valley senior Jashaan Wright as he addressed his teammates after Thursday's night's 24-14 loss to Granada.
The Cougars star passionately pleaded with his teammates to give everything they have when they take the field next time out. He praised the play of defensive line and explained they have two games to get it together before they start playing league games.
"We still haven't had a game where we all laid it out there on the line," Wright said. "It's not enough. We've got to get it together."
It's been a season of "almosts" for the Cougars, who dropped to 0-3.
For the third straight game Golden Valley had a lead late in the second half only to find a way to lose.
Granada (2-1) proved to be the the Cougars toughest opponent yet. The Matadors were stout on defense, limiting Golden Valley to negative 4 yards rushing in the first half.
However, the Cougars defense was also up to the challenge.
After watching Granada march 65 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown to open the game, the Cougars defense stiffened.
Defensive tackle Philip Pavey played inspired, recording a tackle for a loss and intercepting a tipped pass in the first half.
"Our defense was tough," Golden Valley head coach Dennis Stubbs said. "We just kept them on the field too long. We couldn't sustain drives to give them a break."
It was Wright who broke through for a touchdown with a highlight reel play in the second quarter. The play started on the 20 yard line, and Wright leaped into the air for an acrobatic catch at the 50 with two defenders around him. Wright almost went down there, but he broke free and then outran another defender to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown play.
"I knew I was going to see double coverage," said Wright, who finished with 103 yards receiving on three catches. "I just have that will to win. If they can't tackle me, I'm not going to let them."
Wright's big play gave the Cougars momentum heading into halftime and Golden Valley struck first in the second half as fullback Ty Jones broke free with a 32-yard touchdown run that gave the Cougars a 14-7 lead with 5:38 left in the third quarter.
"(Granada) was playing our off-tackle play so we were able to find something there with Ty for a little bit," Stubbs said. "Granada was a legit defense. We did the best we could."
The Matadors caught a break on their next drive on a third down play. Granada quarterback Tyler Offill threw a pass to the sideline that was tipped twice in the air before teammate Javonn Williams pulled in the pass and raced 30 yards to the Cougars' 9-yard line for a first down.
The play was almost identical to the tipped pass that led to Downey's eventual game-winning touchdown in the season opener against Golden Valley two weeks ago.
Jacob Shinnick scored two players later on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 14-14 with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
The crucial mistakes that have plagued Golden Valley early this season popped up again on the Cougars next possession.
On third-and-15, Golden Valley played it safe by calling a draw play, but Isaiah Peterson fumbled and the Matadors recovered on the Cougars' 16-yard line.
The Golden Valley defense held, but Granada's Matthew Dremalas kicked a 27-yard field goal to give the Matadors a 17-14 lead with 10:50 left in the game.
"We're trying hard. I don't know. You just can't fumble there in that situation," Stubbs said. "That's football right there. You can't give them the football there."
The Matadors eventually put the game away with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that chewed 6 minutes, 5 seconds off the clock late in the game. Shinnick capped the drive with his second 2-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 24-14 with 2:26 remaining.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or email@example.com.