The Calvin Griggs era at North Marion got off to an electric start after the Huskies scored three consecutive touchdowns to oust the visiting Stayton Eagles in Friday night's season opener.
The 37-27 victory was an affirmation for the first-year head coach, who praised his team's work ethic over the summer. The team's ability to buy into the new offensive and defensive systems led to five passing touchdowns and nearly 400 yards from senior quarterback Sergio Jimenez.
"Everyone was like 'wow,' but we throw the ball a heck of a lot," Griggs said. "I feel like we have the best offense in the league, and we can score at any time."
Jimenez finished the game 35-of-49 for 381 yards and no interceptions. He peppered the Stayton defense with slants and out patterns to rally the Huskies from a 27-18 deficit midway through the third quarter for their second consecutive season-opening win over the Eagles.
"Our guys really proved that no matter what happens, we're going to keep fighting to the end and keep fighting for our brothers," Griggs said. "These guys never stopped believing in themselves. We preach about it all the time. We're always going to face adversity, but we build character when we're down. That's when the character shows."
The comeback began in an offense-heavy third quarter that saw both teams combine for 32 points and five touchdowns.
Stayton expanded its 14-12 halftime lead with a 13-yard touchdown run from quarterback Ben Rash to go up 20-12 after North Marion's Joe Ledesma blocked the extra point.
The Huskies responded on a 31-yard connection from Jimenez to Isaijah Griggs, catching his second of three touchdowns on the night and finishing with six receptions for 93 yards.
But the Eagles immediately struck back two plays later, taking advantage of a handful of missed tackles on a 49-yard score from Rash to receiver Logan Classen to make it 27-18.
From that point on, the game belonged to North Marion.
Jimenez mounted back-to-back touchdown drives, throwing scores to Hansen and Isaijah Griggs to put the Huskies on top 31-27. The team ended the quarter with a successful onside kick recovery and converted that into a touchdown drive to go up 37-27 with 10:32 left in the game.
North Marion could have put the game away even more, but self-inflicted mistakes cost the Huskies a pair of scoring opportunities in the final minutes. After a successfully blocked field goal by David Page on the Eagles' next drive, Hansen returned the ball 70 yards for the touchdown. However, the play was called back due to a block in the back penalty.
The ensuing drive stalled for North Marion, but a punt fake on fourth down resulted in a 65-yard touchdown pass from Jimenez to Isaijah Griggs. That score was also called back after a lineman mistook the play for a run and was penalized for being downfield.
"We have a very, very young line," Coach Griggs said. "Just stupid mental mistakes that we made, but again, we face adversity and that's what I teach because it's the same thing in life as well."
Jimenez spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. Johnny Page led the team in receptions, with eight caught passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Hansen hauled in six balls for 73 yards and a score.
Tanner Saucedo had seven catches for 80 yards, and Hunter Wierstra caught five for 40 to go along with a team-high 53 rushing yards.
While the Huskies had a difficult time with Rash, who combined for 328 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, they contained the rest of the Stayton offense. That containment led to a game-sealing interception by Joe Torian in the Eagles' final drive of the night.
"That's why I've got the best defensive coordinator in the league," Griggs said, referring to Grant Carmichael. "We made adjustments at halftime. We figured out some different schemes that we needed to do.
"We never stopped believing."
North Marion (1-0) travels to Henley (1-0) this week to take on the Hornets at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
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