Updated October 29, 2021 - 5:02 am
Touchdowns, personal fouls and words were exchanged during and after Thursday’s Class 5A first round playoff game between Henderson rivals Foothill and Green Valley.
But at the end of the night, all thoughts were with Green Valley quarterback Josiah Kiaaina.
Jack Thow came off the bench to throw two fourth-quarter TD passes that lifted visiting Foothill to a 27-20 victory in a physical game that saw the teams combine for 215 penalty yards. But emotions cooled dramatically after Kiaaina was taken from the field on a gurney after being injured in the final minute.
“This is a bigger issue right now,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said as emergency personnel prepared to load his quarterback into an ambulance some 20 minutes after the final gun.
There was no immediate word on Kiaaina’s condition.
“There’s not a whole lot I can say. Hats off to those guys,” Castro said of Foothill, as several of his players who watched paramedics administer aid to Kiaaina broke into tears. “They played their butt off and made more plays than we did.”
Thow connected on a 22-yard scoring strike to Michael Gazzana early in the fourth quarter to erase a 20-15 Green Valley lead, then hit Jayden Robertson from 6 yards with 1:57 to play that gave the Falcons some breathing room at 27-20.
After Kiaaina, who completed 20 of 28 passes for 176 yards, was injured while running out of bounds, his replacement, Jack Stevens, drove the Gators (7-3) to the Foothill 22-yard line and spiked the ball with one second to play. But his pass to the left side of the end zone on the final play of the game fell incomplete as Foothill (5-2) advanced to a second-round matchup against top-ranked Bishop Gorman.
“It was emotional,” said Falcons coach Vernon Brown, a former Green Valley assistant who got into a shouting match with a Gators coach after he and Castro had exchanged a warm embrace. “Anytime Green Valley and Foothill play, it’s one of those games.
“We just kept fighting. We had to put the other quarterback (Thow) in because he’s better running the ball. We needed to make some plays running the ball because they were keying on Kendric (Thomas).”
Thomas, Foothill’s star running back, scored on a 65-yard run early in the third quarter on the first play after Green Valley’s Jaylen McKnight had gone 82 yards to snap a 7-7 halftime tie.
It was the second long scoring run for McKnight, who also broke loose for 90 yards on the Gators’ second play after receiving the opening kickoff. McKnight, who added a 15-yard TD run late in the third quarter, finished with 220 yards on 18 carries.