After winning their franchise opener this week, the High Country Grizzlies came home to Boone for their home opener. With less than two seconds left and down by six, a small slip turned into a large one as the Grizzlies went down to the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks in a game of streaks, 48-42.
Lehigh Valley got on the board first thanks to a touchdown run by quarterack Warren Smith, Jr., but a blocked extra point left the lead at 6-0. It went from bad to worse for the Grizzlies, as on the very next possession the Steelhawks picked up the ball on an errant lateral and ran it in to increase the lead to 13-0.
High Country used their defense to get on the board, sacking Smith in the end zone for a safety and cutting the deficit to 13-2. After the two teams traded interceptions, quarterback Stephen Panasuk threw consecutive touchdown passes to Malachi Jones, Mackenzie Williams, and Dexter Jackson to take a 21-13 lead.
The Steelhawks finally ended the run and tied the game when Smith found Warren Oliver, Jr. in the end zone, and the successful two-point conversion tied the game at 21 apiece going into the locker room.
Lehigh Valley picked up where they left off in the second half, as Smith found a wide open Darius Prince, then followed up with another scoring drive ending in a touchdown pass to Brandon Renford and a 34-21 lead. But, High Country refused to go away, as Panasuk answered right back with two scoring drives of his own, and a pass to Daron Clark gave the Grizzlies the lead once again, 35-34.
After another interception on defense, Panasuk let fullback Undra Hendrix do the heavy lifting, and it paid off with a touchdown run and an eight-point lead.
With the fourth quarter winding down, the Steelhawks stayed within reach after Smith found Prince for the second time of the night, but a missed two-point conversion kept High Country with a slim lead. With just 20 seconds left, however, the lead disappeared when OL/TE Curtis Kneeler broke open and into the end zone on a touchdown pass, setting up the final, ill-fated drive.
At 1-1, the Grizzlies will look to bounce back and not fall victims to the April Fool as they face the Dayton Wolfpack on Saturday, April 1. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET, and the game will be streamed live on the NAL’s YouTube channel.