The Bartlett Golden Bears pulled out a thrilling 20-15 win Saturday afternoon over the red-hot Eagle River Wolves, surviving a wild finish that saw the lead change hands twice in the final two minutes of the game.
The Golden Bears scored the game-winning touchdown with 18 seconds left and got a game-sealing sack from Lotomama Manogiamanu on the final play. It was Bartlett’s sixth sack of the game.
"Our defense absolutely won that game,” Bartlett coach Chance Matsuoka said. “Really we got lucky. We got lucky at the end and we won that game.”
Bartlett improved to 2-2 and previously undefeated Eagle River fell to 3-1.
The Wolves had outscored opponents 70-11 in their first three games, but the Bartlett defense kept senior quarterback Quentin Jackson II from being his typical electric self.
Jackson was under duress from the start until the very end, when senior defensive end Manogiamanu finished things with a sack.
A couple of minutes earlier, the score was 14-7 and any hopes of an Eagle River comeback appeared to end when Bartlett senior defensive back Elijah Lewis-Tufi sacked Jackson on fourth-and-long.
But Eagle River wasn’t done yet. The Wolves held Bartlett to three yards on the ensuing possession, and on fourth down Jackson’s brother Notorious Jackson came up with the ball on a blocked punt and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
With less than two minutes to go, the Wolves went for the lead instead of the tie and took a 15-14 edge when fullback Chashiez Reaves ran up the middle for a two-point conversion.
After an illegal kick out of bounds by the Wolves, Bartlett had decent field position for its game-winning drive.
“This was a big win,” Matsuoka said. “We were 1-2, Eagle River was 3-0, so we kind of came in as the underdogs and came away with the victory.”
In the first half, ballcarriers for both teams had a bad case of the butterfingers. Eagle River fumbled six times and Bartlett four times — a surprising series of mistakes considering both teams have run-centric offenses and it wasn’t raining.
Bartlett scored its first touchdown four plays after Jackson was stripped of the ball for the second time of the game. On fourth and goal, Gordan — who started the game at quarterback and moved to wide receiver in the second half — went four yards on a keeper and then ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
A second-quarter fumble by Eagle River halfback Kolton Carlson was picked up and returned nearly to the end zone by Bartlett senior defensive back Michael Elias, who was pushed out of bounds by Jackson one yard shy of the goal line.
Two plays later, Gordan rolled to his left and hit senior running back Austin Cargill for a short score and a 14-0 halftime lead for the Golden Bears.
Bartlett’s defense was pitching a shoutout until Eagle River made it 14-7 with a little more than 90 seconds left in the third quarter. Halfback Mitchell Legenza ran four yards to make it a 14-7 game and set up the wild finish.
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