SULTAN — When Granite Falls’ Javario Adams raced to the end zone on a go-ahead touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter, a rowdy crowd at Sultan High School fell silent in disbelief.
The Turks had dominated the line of scrimmage most of the night and held a lead for well over half the game, surrendering just two first downs and 46 yards of offense while building a 9-0 lead.
That lead evaporated in the blink of an eye after Adams scored the second of two long Granite Falls touchdown receptions in less than three minutes.
It appeared the Turks’ Black and Blue Bowl losing streak might continue, but Sultan absorbed that gut punch and didn’t back down.
Brek Bush came up with a key interception late in the fourth quarter and Derek Feltner scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:13 left as Sultan hung on for a 16-13 victory over rival Granite Falls on Friday.
“This is a great bunch of kids,” Turks coach Rick Rudd said. “I love coming out to practice every single day with these guys. … They don’t ever quit and they have a great attitude.”
As a result, the Black and Blue Bowl trophy is heading to Sultan (3-2, 1-0 Emerald Sound Conference) for the first time since 2017.
“When we see Granite on the schedule, it’s all go,” senior Westin Galle said. “We’re giving everything for it. It’s a big game for us. We executed and it was just an amazing win.”
It certainly felt like a big game during a tense finish.
Galle intercepted a pass and ran 41 yards down to the Tigers’ 22-yard line late in the third. He then connected on a 35-yard field goal with 10:22 left in the fourth to put Sultan up 9-0.
Granite Falls (1-3, 0-1) faced third-and-8 on the ensuing possession looking for just its third first down of the game. Quarterback Conner Gillen launched a well-placed deep ball between two defenders and into the hands of Johnathon Roberts for a 52-yard TD.
After a Sultan three-and-out, Gillen connected with Adams and the junior receiver sprinted to the end zone for a 56-yard score and 13-9 lead with 5:40 remaining.
Sultan’s next drive stalled and Granite Falls took over deep in its own territory after a punt.
A high snap forced a third-and-23 from the Tigers’ 5. Gillen took a deep shot down the middle to and it went into the hands of Bush.
The Sultan crowed erupted two plays later when Feltner took a handoff and bounced it down the left sideline for a game-deciding 30-yard TD with 2:13 left.
The Tigers threatened on their final drive. Junior Landon Ferwerda reached over a Sultan defender and tip-toed the sideline as he hauled in a 41-yard pass from Gillen at the Turks’ 41. But the Turks forced an incomplete pass on fourth down in the final seconds.
“It was awesome,” Galle said of the win. “It was definitely a confidence booster for the whole team. The way we pushed through the fourth quarter just helped with the whole momentum of the game.”
After the final whistle blew, Sultan’s players stormed the field in celebration, hoisted the Black and Blue trophy in the air and ran in front of the stands to display it to their home crowd.
“There’s never any lack of passion or emotion when it comes to Sultan and Granite Falls,” Rudd said. “… It is basically our Apple Cup. It’s a couple of blue-collar schools … and we both come out and get after it.”
Feltner had a game-high 122 yards on 25 carries. Galle completed 5 of 15 passes for 72 yards, one TD and one interception. He also had two interceptions on defense. Julio Vargas led the Turks with 59 yards on four receptions and Hayden Murphy hauled in a 13-yard TD in the first quarter.
Gillen went 9-of-18 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Four different Tigers had 46 receiving yards or more, including a team-high 59 from Ferwerda. Roberts had two interceptions on defense.
Sultan’s defense dominated early on. The Turks forced a pair of three-and-outs and a turnover before allowing a Granite Falls first down, and they surrendered just 14 yards of offense in the first half.
“I was really excited for the guys,” Rudd said. “We really executed well defensively.”
Galle’s 13-yard connection with Murphy put Sultan up 6-0 at the 3:08 mark of the first.
Sultan threatened again in the second after Galle’s first interception put the ball on the Tigers’ 17, but the Turks were forced to settle for a long field-goal attempt that just missed.
The Turks neared the red zone again in the third but were forced to settle for another long field-goal try that fell short.
“We made a lot of mistakes in this game,” Rudd said. “That’s why the score is what it is. If we eliminated some of those mistakes, it wouldn’t haven’t been this close. But that’s still OK. I’ll take the victory.”