Sugar-Salem quarterback Danny Neal runs the football.

Sugar-Salem quarterback Danny Neal runs the football.

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Sugar-Salem’s football team topped Marsh Valley 22-16 in the state quarterfinals after rallying back from down nine through nearly three quarters of play.

Marsh Valley intercepted a pass from Sugar-Salem quarterback Danny Neal on the Diggers’ first drive of the game. Then the Eagles drove 59 yards down the field and scored a touchdown. They kicked a field goal as the half ended to put them up nine at halftime.

“I think a lot of it was just us out of rhythm,” Sugar-Salem head coach Tyler Richins said. “We just hurt ourselves and got behind the chains.We turned the ball over a couple of times and just kind of hurt ourselves a little bit. To their credit, they were there to make those plays and put that pressure on (us).”

After a handful of fruitless drives by both teams, the Diggers took over with 2:56 left on the third quarter clock.

A bad Marsh Valley snap on the next drive gave the Diggers the ball five yards shy of the endzone; the following Marsh Valley punt put the Diggers 24 yards shy of the endzone. Both led to touchdowns.

In total, the Diggers scored three touchdowns in five minutes and 23 seconds of game time. And Carson Harris finished off all three with touchdown runs.

“We were able to get our run game going,” Richins said. “Our line found confidence in what we were doing and I think that was the deciding factor that we were able to get running the ball.”

Marsh Valley scored with five minutes left to cut the deficit to one score but a few Sugar first downs helped the Diggers seal the game.

Much of the Diggers success stemmed from the short fields their special teams created.

“Special teams played a real critical role in our win,” Richins said. “Any time you can get special teams wins on the field it sure is good for putting your offense in positive situations to put points on the board.”

Carson Harris led the Diggers with 130 yards on 17 runs gaining over 40 percent of Sugar-Salem’s yards. Wyatt Harris added 26 yards on five carries.

Danny Neal 132 yards going nine for 12 passing. Wide receiver Cooper Butikofer led Sugar receivers with five catches for 75 yards and Ty Hirrlinger added three catches for 41 yards.

The Diggers have now advanced to the semifinals for three years in a row. They’ll await the winner of Saturday’s battle between Homedale and South Fremont.

Richins said the comeback win showed his players’ character.

“They’ve worked their guts out for four years—these seniors,” Richins said. “They’ve put the time in the weight room and other things like that. And they’re not unfamiliar with these types of situations. They’ve played in tight games when they were juniors like the Homedale game last year when we were down at halftime. They have a lot of experience to draw on and no reason at all to quit. For them to come out and say, ‘hey we’re going to fix what we’re doing wrong and we’re going to get it right is a credit to these kids.”