On a night where nothing came easy for either offense, it was fitting that even the winning play in the Golden Valley-Mira Monte football game came with complications.
Bulldogs quarterback Marquel Bruley connected with Nick Abbott for a 9-yard touchdown pass, then recovered his own fumbled snap and found Isaiah Ali for the winning two-point conversion, and Golden Valley pulled out a 16-15 overtime win over the Lions.
Bruley and Abbot also connected for a 16-yard touchdown on the game's opening possession, but the Bulldogs offense was mostly ineffective the rest of the way.
But after the Lions scored on a 9-yard pass from Sebastian Marbaugh to Jose Pelayo on the first drive of overtime — a score that also came off a fumbled snap — the Golden Valley duo connected again, and the Bulldogs elected to go for two and the win.
It appeared that disaster had struck when a low snap on the conversion try rolled off Bruley's fingers and onto the grass. But the senior quarterback kept his composure, picked up the ball and found a wide open Ali in the front of the end zone, clinching a 2-0 start for a Golden Valley team that won just one game in the previous two seasons combined.
"As soon as I saw the ball on the ground, I knew I had to make a play," said Bruley, who was 0-for-8 passing after halftime before the two scoring plays. "It wasn't how we wanted (it to go), I just had to make a play."
"Lucky for us, we've got a heady senior that thought quick on his feet," Bulldog coach James Cain added. "We had another smart senior, Isaiah Ali who just went out for a pass instead of just freaking out like everybody else did, including the coaches. They made a great play."
It was the second straight week the Bulldogs rode a dominant defensive effort to the end and escaped with a late touchdown. Golden Valley pitched a shutout and got a go-ahead score with under four minutes to play against Foothill last week, then held Mira Monte to just one score in regulation Thursday.
But after the struggles of the last two years, plus the uncertainty there would even be a football season this year, Cain has no interest in style points. Believing this group could help lead a culture change, Cain is ecstatic to see their efforts leading to wins early in the shortened season.
"I kind of had a feeling this group was going to be that group to make the change," he said. "When we first heard we weren't going to have a season, that really bummed me out for them because I thought they were going to be that group. To see them get this opportunity, to see it go the way we knew it could go for them, we're hyped."
The Lions, who fell just short of their first ever 2-0 start, tied the game 8-8 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Marbaugh to Joe Galindo on the first drive of the second half. The play was set up by a 45-yard Pelayo return of the opening kickoff.