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High School Sports

South wins back-and-forth football battle with southside rival Service

  • Author: Matt Nevala
  • Updated: September 9
  • Published September 8

Allow Jayden Heartwell-McKoy to take you inside his helmet and share what he saw moments before making his team's most memorable play Saturday.

"The football high in the air and a bunch of guys in green surrounding me," the South High junior said.

Wearing his white No. 1 jersey, Heartwell-McKoy leaped above all of those Service defenders near the middle of the end zone. He caught teammate Spencer Martin's 22-yard heave to help South cap a crazy comeback over its southside rival.

Heartwell-McKoy's touchdown catch with eight seconds remaining lifted South to an improbable 49-45 Cook Inlet Conference upset over the third-ranked Cougars at Service High.

Not only did the teams combine for 94 points and 921 yards of total offense, they exchanged the game's lead a dizzying six times in the final 18 minutes of play.

"But it's not like you can take a break or a step back and think about all that's happening," said South senior Chance Phonsavang, one of multiple players from each squad to make a big play or 12. "The important thing was to stay strong and keep fighting."

Two weeks before the official end of summer, under brilliant, warm sunshine, South (2-3 overall, 1-1 CIC) put its subpar start behind to end Service's scorching run of three straight victories.

"Ruining their homecoming wasn't all that bad, either," Phonsavang said.

Aided by second-half defensive touchdowns from Heartwell-McKoy and Phonsavang, the Wolverines erased an early 21-0 deficit.

Phonsavang scooped up a Service fumble and hustled 68 yards for a score as time expired in the third quarter. The successful extra-point kick put South ahead 34-31 and gave the Wolverines their second lead of the afternoon.

"My teammates were making the tackle, the ball just popped out and I took off," Phonsavang said. "We had some momentum."

Heartwell-McKoy added to his squad's confidence a few minutes later. Playing defensive back, he snagged a one-handed interception and bolted up the right sideline for a 73-yard touchdown. That gave South a 41-31 lead with 9:13 to play in the fourth.

Service's Sebastian O'Farrell and Ben Faulkner (206 rushing yards on 36 carries) answered with touchdown runs. Faulkner's touchdown, his third of the game, gave the Cougars a 45-41 edge with 1:53 to go.

South started its final drive on its own 38-yard line.

Martin, who completed 23 of 27 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns, was sacked early in the drive. But he kept the chains moving with completions to Sean Ormberg and Carson Jungwirth, whose catch came on a pivotal fourth-and-six play.

On the game-winning touchdown pass, the senior quarterback maneuvered away from Service's defensive pressure and moved to his left before hoisting the ball toward Heartwell-McKoy and that bunch of guys in green.

Heartwell-McKoy's end-zone heroics rightly received its fair share of attention. "Way to go, Jayden. Big players make big plays," an assistant coach said.

From the back of South's large huddle, Martin heard the praise and gave a wide smile. "Hey, coach, thanks," he said.

Junior running back Carter Weber-Thomas totaled 128 yards on 24 carries for South.

Service senior quarterback Jason Villanueva-Kaeo completed 29 of 43 attempts for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Senior receiver Sean Guevarra made 14 catches for 103 yards and junior Henry Helgeson caught nine balls for 120 yards and a touchdown.

The loss dropped Service to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play, putting the Cougars a game behind East in the chase for the CIC regular-season title.

"Emotionally, you get tugged a bunch of different ways in a game like this," Villanueva-Kaeo said. "As team, it was quite nerve-wracking because you're hoping (a loss) isn't going to happen.

"From here on out, we just have to stay focused, and we can't slack on any team."

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