As practice closed Thursday night, the Valhalla offense lined up in “NASCAR” and began to simulate its two-minute drive to glory. The Vikings were within the shadow of the goal line — an imaginary Section 1 championship on the line — when coach Steve Boyer called a roll-out pass to Evan Parker.
“I threw a perfect ball to Evan and he dropped it,” quarterback Ralph Gonzalez said. “Our team had to run extra sprints.”
With a chance to make amends Saturday, the only sprinting for Parker and his teammates came when they joined one another in celebration. The sophomore fullback scored the winning two-point conversion when he caught the pass from Gonzalez and dragged himself over the goal line to finish No. 6 Valhalla’s wild 22-21 victory at No. 3 Nanuet in the Class B quarterfinals.
The Vikings put themselves in position to win on a Gonzalez-led 15-play, 81-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Williams on fourth down with 24 seconds remaining.
“It was just a storied moment,” said Gonzalez, who went 6 for 14 for 65 yards on the winning march. “It was one of those things that in 10, 20 years, you’re going to be telling everyone about it.”
The Vikings’ memory nearly became a nightmare. They had led 14-7 at halftime behind the brilliance of junior Mike Ferrara. The defense held that lead until Nanuet took advantage of two short fields.
On fourth down with 7:16 left, Thomas Fay connected with Michael O’Meara to tie it. Jake Stein then put the Golden Knights ahead 21-14 less than four minutes later.
Forced to respond, Valhalla did, slicing down the muddy field a chunk at a time. On the final fourth-down pass, Boyer improvised and drew a corner route for Williams during a timeout. He then boldly went for two the next play, saying, “We’re not coming all this way to play for a tie.”
“I was thinking about that the whole way down the field,” said Parker, still shaking the nerves. “But that’s the way we play.”
Player of the game: Mike Ferrara, Valhalla. Before the Gonzalez/Williams/Parker heroics, Ferrara had rushed 12 times for 154 yards — including a go-ahead 80-yard touchdown — and intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a promising Nanuet drive.
Stat line: Valhalla (6-2) — Gonzalez finished 11 for 26 for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Parker had four catches for 48 yards and a score. Nanuet (5-3) — Stein had 18 carries for 65 yards and Connor Breit added 39 yards and a score.
Quotable: “It’s about taking that next step. Today we took another step,” Boyer said. “Hopefully next week we’ll see if we can take another step against one of the powerhouses in Class B.”
Valhalla will visit defending champ Westlake in Saturday’s semifinals, likely at 1:30 p.m.
With its playoffs over, Nanuet will travel to Pearl River at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and play the Pirates for the Little Brown Jug.