All the momentum was with the Golden Valley Bulldogs as they led 14-7 on the road with just under four minutes remaining.
After stopping Ridgeview quarterback Andres Rivera on fourth down, Golden Valley took over on its own 25, needing just one prolonged drive to seal the deal.
Instead, the Bulldogs got called for three straight penalties, surrendered a safety, and then fumbled on the first play of their next drive, as the Wolf Pack rallied to win 15-14.
Ridgeview's victory, which came after a layoff due to COVID-19, was the first for head coach Casey Quinn, but he said he's not satisfied.
"We came out here after a two-week deal, not practicing," Quinn said, "and did OK, but we have a long way to go."
Indeed, while Ridgeview (1-4) recovered two fumbles, intercepted three passes and recorded a safety, the offense managed just one touchdown drive, leaving the game within Golden Valley's (1-5) reach.
"Unfortunately our mistakes got the best of us tonight," Bulldogs coach James Cain said, "and it cost us a ball game that we were more than capable of winning."
Markell Brooks had receiving touchdowns of 19 and 13 yards to spark the Bulldogs in the third quarter after they trailed 7-0 at halftime.
The lone touchdown in the first half came on a pick-six by Ridgeview's Isaiah Nunez. On third and 8 from his own 34, Bulldogs quarterback Kemonte Jackson threw too quickly to the flat and didn't see Nunez, who ran untouched the other way for six points.
"We played sound football," Quinn said, "and getting our guys to the football is important, to get some of those turnovers."
The game remained low-scoring as both teams struggled in enemy territory early. Ridgeview punted twice from inside Golden Valley's 40. Then the Wolf Pack almost extended their lead before the half, but called seven straight runs and ran out of timeouts, so the clock expired on an incomplete pass from Rivera from the 7-yard line.
In the third quarter, Golden Valley was much more efficient on offense. On an opening drive that ate up over half the quarter, Conroy Hayes carried the ball six straight times for 38 yards, aided by sound run blocking on the outside from his linemen and receivers.
Marquez Burns converted a fourth down, but the drive almost stalled again when Jackson missed Brooks on a second-and-7 fade from the 19. The Bulldogs went back to the same route on the next play, and this time Brooks outmaneuvered his defender to secure the touchdown catch. Golden Valley missed the extra point, leaving the score at 7-6.
Ridgeview was unable to answer despite starting its next drive on Golden Valley's 46, because on fourth and 9 from the 21, the Wolf Pack executed an 8-yard curl route.
The Bulldogs went back down the field in short order thanks to a 39-yard run from Hayes, leading to an improbable two-play sequence for Burns.
On third and 15 Burns dropped a pitch in the backfield but picked it up and reversed direction for 10 yards. On fourth and 5 he caught a pitch, then set up to pass and found Brooks for a trick-play touchdown. Brooks also caught a two-point conversion to make it 14-7.
"We had a lot of guys step up and do some great things," Cain said. "I'm extremely proud of them, and we're not going to harp on the negative too much."
The negative, of course, arrived late in the fourth quarter. On first and 10 from their own 25, the Bulldogs took penalties totaling 18 yards before conceding a safety on first and 28. Ridgeview's struggling offense went three-and-out with three incompletions in less than a minute and punted, but Jackson fumbled the Bulldogs' next snap.
The Wolf Pack opted for a new strategy on their final drive, running Rivera six consecutive times for 25 yards, including the game-winning touchdown on fourth and goal from the 1. Then the defense came through with one last interception to end the game.
Ridgeview travels to face West Friday at 7:30. Golden Valley will host Independence at the same time.