Grant falls to Hononegah
ROCKTON -- John Bolton doesn't see any obstacle he thinks he can't overcome.
And for a short while, he looked correct.
Bolton ran for a touchdown, intercepted a pass, then ran for another touchdown in a five-minute third-quarter spurt that had Grant roaring back. But Hononegah threw a 54-yard touchdown pass on the next play after his second TD and cruised to a 43-17 Class 7A first-round football playoff victory Saturday.
"When we scored our first two touchdowns, I thought we were going to come back and win it," Bolton said. "That kind of killed it.
"But I never thought we were out of it. Even at the end, when we were down 43-17, I still thought we had a chance to win."
Grant (6-4) reached the playoffs for the first time in seven years, but finished 0-3 after three-year starting quarterback Tyler Elfering got injured.
"We had a lot working against us," Grant coach Chris Robinson said, "both as a team and these guys, who have been in the playoffs before. But we came out in the second half and stuck with it. I'm very proud of my guys."
Hononegah, ranked No. 10 in the state, has made the playoffs 13 years in a row and has now reached the second round three years in a row. Payton Mather (17 of 22 for 235 yards and 5 TDs) connected three times with Braden Sayles (147 yards on 8 catches) on 3rd-and-5 or longer on Hononegah's game-opening 74-yard TD drive.
"That set the tone," Sayles said. "We got our pass offense rolling early. We knew we could hit over-the-middle and out routes all game."
"Their quarterback and (Sayles), they are both really good," Bolton said. "Those slants were there all day. We should have moved to the middle."
Grant almost tied it on its first drive after a 35-yard run on a fake punt by Bolton (94 yards on 17 attempts). But Bolton's fourth-down QB sneak for a TD was wiped out by a motion penalty and the Bulldogs settled for a field goal.
Hononegah (8-2) pushed its lead to 29-3 in the third quarter. Bolton, moved from running back to QB to fill in for Elfering, then scored on a 37-yard run, picked off Mather and scored on a 10-yard run to pull Grant to within 29-17 with 15 minutes still to play.
"I played quarterback when I was a freshman, so it's not too hard for me," said Bolton, who was 5-for-7 passing for 54 yards.
"We put a lot on his shoulders," Robinson said, "but he steps up."
So did Mather. On Hononegah's first play after Bolton's 10-yard TD, Mather threw a 54-yard TD pass to Sayles. He added a 5-yard TD pass to Brice Goodwine in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring and break the NIC-10 conference single-season record with his 28th touchdown pass.