It might not have been the football season that Metea Valley coach Ted Monken and company were hoping for, but the Mustangs will take it nonetheless.
Behind 21 fourth-quarter points and 6 Elgin turnovers, the Mustangs finished 2011 with a 31-16 victory over the visiting Maroons (1-8, 0-6), finishing the year with a 4-5 record during the program's second season as a varsity sport.
"With the injuries and difficulties we've had, it's hard to see the big picture," Monken said. "In a few weeks we'll look back and see that going from one win to four wins is a good stride."
The game was a back-and-forth battle for the better part of three quarters.
After a 31-yard field goal by Zach Wood gave Metea Valley an early 3-0 lead, the Mustangs followed it up with a 6-play, 65-yard scoring drive on their next possession. The drive ended on the first play of the second quarter when Tre'Sean Mackey took an option pitch from quarterback Luke Rozier and ran 32 yards into the end zone for a 10-0 lead.
Elgin's first scoring opportunity came in the second quarter when, after a Jorge Zavala fumble recovery, the Maroons ensuing offensive series ended with what looked to be a 31-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Sitter to Derek Moorman. However, the play was negated by an offensive pass interference call and Elgin was forced to punt.
The ensuing Elgin punt was downed at the 1-yard line of Metea Valley, which led to the Maroons' first points of the night on a safety, caused by Rozier being forced out of bounce while still in the end zone.
A 12-yard touchdown pass from Sitter to Moorman, followed by a 2-point conversion from the same quarterback-receiver combo, tied the game at 10-10 heading into halftime.
Elgin took its first lead when a James Jones interception and 59-yard return culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Sitter, putting the Maroons up 16-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
"I saw a back come out, I jumped the route, and all I saw was green," Jones said of the interception and return.
Metea Valley took advantage of several Elgin miscues in the final 12 minutes as the Mustangs scored all 21 fourth-quarter points off Maroons turnovers.
A 10-yard touchdown run by Cameron Wilcox on the first play of the fourth quarter was set up by an Alan Williams interception on the Mustangs' previous defensive series.
Chris Guyton then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Elgin 28-yard line, setting up a 22-yard touchdown pass from Rozier to Raysean Parker.
Rozier and Parker connected one more time on a 16-yard scoring strike, set up by a Breon Hoosier interception.
"Once we got a little momentum and took the ball away a few times, it just swung the whole game around," Monken said. "Those are the things that turn a back-and-forth game into a one-sided contest, which it was at the end."