Tigers survive

Heinsma's last-minute TD run lifts mistake-prone Grand Junction to win

Grand Junction quarterback Tyler Heinsma breaks out of the tackle attempt of Mountain Vista’s Tyler Spond on his way to the winning touchdown in the final minute Friday night in the Tigers’ 21-17 victory over the Golden Eagles at Stocker Stadium.

Tyler Heinsma came up a few yards short on fourth down Friday late in the fourth quarter at Stocker Stadium.

The Grand Junction High School quarterback, though, wasn’t about to let that stop him in the final minute.

“I didn’t think, I just reacted,” Heinsma said after scoring a 15-yard touchdown with 25.7 seconds to play for a 21-17 victory over Mountain Vista. “Our offensive line did a great job making sure that could happen.”

Heinsma, after completing two passes to keep the drive alive, one for 14 yards to Kaleb Johnson on fourth down and one for 20 to Austin Berk on third down, faced a first down at the Mountain Vista 15. The Tigers (2-0) trailed 17-14. Only 35.5 seconds remained.

Ten seconds later, Heinsma had bounced off a couple of tacklers and picked his way into the right corner of the end zone for the improbable victory.

“We were trying to get the ball on the perimeter and throw it and Tyler decided to take off with it,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said.

For more than three quarters, just about everything went against the Tigers. They couldn’t get much of a running game going because Mountain Vista plugged the line of scrimmage.

They couldn’t complete passes because of good coverage and a stout pass rush. And they kept putting the ball on the ground, with the Golden Eagles (0-1) recovering four fumbles. Mountain Vista killed the Tigers’ first drive by picking off John Wiman on a tipped pass.

But the end result sure was pretty to the Tigers.

“We played sloppy ball and we got lucky and had a chance to win it at the end,” Owens said.

“Obviously when you play bad and turn the ball over and still come back and win, it shows those guys have a lot of heart.”

The Tigers completed only 6 of 17 passes for 76 yards and ran for 290 yards, 139 by Austin Lewis.

All three Mountain Vista scores came after the Tigers fumbled the ball away.

“I think we just got tired of turning the ball over and we just started making it happen on offense,” Heinsma said. “Our defense did a great job of getting the ball to us whenever they could. Defense won it for us.”

After Lewis bulled his way to a 32-yard touchdown with 6:16 to play in the game to cut the lead to 17-14, the Tigers woke up.

They swarmed Dylan Formby on the kickoff return and forced a fumble, recovering it at the 35. Grand Junction drove to the 26, but on a keeper by Heinsma, two flags flew, and the Tigers were tagged for holding.

That moved the ball back to the Mountain Vista 44 and Heinsma was thrown for a three-yard loss on third down.

The Golden Eagles covered Johnson downfield, so Heinsma tucked the ball in and angled for the first-down marker on the Tigers’ sideline. He got to the 30 — he needed to get near the 25.

“I told him I love the fact he’s running the ball, we’ve just got to know down and distance,” Owens said. “The next time he got the chance he still ran it and shows he has a lot of confidence in himself and he made a big play.”

Grand Junction’s defense, though, stuffed Mountain Vista and forced a punt, and those two big pass plays clearly swung the momentum back to the West sideline.

Heinsma hit Johnson breaking out of his route on fourth down and then found Berk, his 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end. Berk was dragged down at the 15, deep enough inside the red zone with just enough time for Heinsma to do his thing.

“That was improvised,” he said with a slight grin. “I just saw the opportunity and took it.”


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