It took every single second, but Gonzaga won its fourth single school title in five years Saturday, beating Herriman 31-26 with a try at the death at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, MO.
The Eagles built a 17-0 lead only to concede it late in the second half and snatch it back with no time left.
Flyhalf Owen Sheehy continued to showcase the individual brilliance he’d put on display all week, adding 11 points off the tee via one penalty and four conversions. Herriman’s Maea Leakehe was also on song, slotting three of four conversions and helping orchestrate four tries, but that one missed conversion and a spoiled first-half opportunity cost the Mustangs.
First, the Eagles scored a try through openside flanker Tim Session, who caught an offload at pace and dove under the sticks. With Sheehy’s extras, the Eagles led 7-0.
Herriman should have gotten some points back when Gonzaga committed a penalty deep in its own end. The infraction occurred at a very kickable spot on the field, but Herriman’s standout flyhalf, Maea Leakehe, quick tapped and got stuffed. Gonzaga turned the ball over.
The Eagles went the other direction and scored off a pop kick inside the crowded attacking 22. Billy Jerro hauled it in, giving Gonzaga a 14-0 lead following Sheehy’s conversion. Then the flyhalf slotted a penalty, putting the Eagles 17 points clear.
Herriman scored before the end of the half with a dummy-and-go by fullback Connor Hyde. It went unconverted, leaving the Mustangs down 17-5 going into the break. They cut the deficit further seconds out of intermission when a broken tackle and offload was swung to midfield, where wing Tyson Herrera sliced through for a try. This one was converted, making it 17-12.
Gonzaga slogged in a pick-and-go try to re-extend the lead, but Herriman was clearly on the front foot. The Mustangs got the score back after a series of crash balls broke the Gonzaga line in the middle of the field. It was Carson Connors dotting down and Leakehe converting – 24-19.
Herriman’s field general assisted the next try, lobbing a skip pass over his centers into the hands of Herrera for the wing’s second try of the game. Leakehe converted, snatching a 26-24 lead.
Gonzaga didn’t have much time. Sheehy did make a break up the right side of the field, but a strong counter ruck from Herriman turned the ball over. Gonzaga would get the ball back in the attacking end, thanks in part to some indiscipline from Herriman.
With little time left on the clock and the Eagles marching methodically forward, Sheehy settled in a shallow pocket to attempt the game-winning drop goal. Herriman got a fingertip on the ball, which fluttered outside the uprights and into touch. Since a Mustang had touched it, the result was a 5-meter scrum to Gonzaga. The Eagles humped one over from short distance, stealing the win at the death.
Tries: Sessing, Jerro, Ehel, Lyke
Cons: Sheehy (4)
Tries: Hude, Herrera (2), Carson
Cons: Leakehe (3)