Junior Sandoval was lying face down on the turf.
He knew immediately what was wrong, and it wasn’t good.
After scampering for a 24-yard gain to extend the North Salem High School’s best offensive drive of the season and take the ball to South Salem’s seven-yard line, Sandoval felt his left shoulder pop out of its socket while he hit the ground.
He was hurt, and the injury was of the severity that a lot of players would be done for a season.
“My shoulder popped out of place then it popped back in there,” said the 5-10, 185 pound senior running back and safety. “I felt it pop out and as soon as I rolled over it popped back in.”
Sandoval barely stayed off the field for the next couple plays because he is the epitome of what North Salem’s defense proved it could be in Friday’s 23-22 win against rival South Salem in the Mayor’s Trophy game.
Five plays later, and running on pure adrenaline, Sandoval made the impossible play. Then a few plays later he made another huge play.
“That just tells you the kind of characters we have on this team,” said senior quarterback Hunter Sullivan. “The heart on this team is incredible.
“We’re undersized, we have less people than every other team, but it’s about heart and that’s what gets us where we are. This game is huge for us going into next week, but it just shows you the kind of guys we have on this team.”
With 2:08 left, South Salem quarterback Harrison Broadus rolled to his right and hucked a pass in the direction of Kyle Martz deep in North Salem territory.
Sandoval lept with Martz for the ball, and both of them came down with the ball.
But Sandoval wrenched the ball away from Martz as they came down on the ground for the interception.
In that kind of play, the receiver should always end up with the ball.
“I just rolled on top of the ball and I just yanked it from him and showed it to the ref and it was our ball,” Sandoval said in a matter of fact manner.
Then Sandoval made another outstounding play as he stood up South Salem running back Francisco Ramirez-Perez’s two-point conversion attempt at the one-yard line to clinch the 23-22 victory.
Sandoval was supposed to be North Salem’s star on defense this season, but he rushed for a team-high 82 yards on 12 carries against South Salem.
It was one of those situations born from necessity.
“That really kind of evolved when (Giovanni Gonzalez) went down earlier in the season,” North Salem coach Jeff Flood said. “We were hoping to use Junior as kind of the guy that would spell the other two, but Junior stepped into that role.
“He’s such a good defensive player, we really haven’t given the opportunity to run the ball, but he’s special back there, too. He runs the ball the ball hard. He sees holes and he just doesn’t quit. He brings that defensive mentality of playing downhill to carrying the ball, and it’s very effective.”
When you consider that a North Salem team (2-4 Greater Valley Conference) that had allowed an average of 42.6 points per game in its past three games – all losses – holding South Salem, even if it was an injury plagued version of the Saxons, to 270 yards was a huge step forward.
The Vikings held South Salem to three field goals by Tony Maldonado in three red zone opportunities in the first half, took the ball away four times and sacked quarterback Harrison Broadus five times.
It’s the kind of performance that defensive coordinator Troy Walker built the defense to do.
“Our defense hadn’t clicked until now,” Sandoval said. “The whole season we were pretty passive on defense. We let things happen, but this game, we just gave it to them first, we set the tone, and that was all night.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler
North Salem 23, South Salem 22
SS 6 3 7 6-22
NS 7 8 0 8-23
NS- Angel Goznalez 94 kickoff return (Adrian Sierra kick) 11:47.
SS- Tony Maldonado 31 field goal 8:27.
SS- Maldonado 30 field goal :00.
NS- Hunter Sullivan 4 run (Sullivan run) 3:28.
SS- Maldonado 30 field goal :14.
SS- Harrison Broadus 9 run (Maldonado kick) 8:02.
NS- Alex Vasquez 7 run (Alexis Valenzuela pass from Sullivan) 3:13.
SS- Francisco Ramirez-Perez 4 run (run fail) 1:58.