Granite Bay's Wagner: Look, America - one hand
On Oct. 7, it was a go-ahead touchdown that helped send Granite Bay past Nevada Union in a Sierra Foothill League opener.
At Christmas, it was in the running for top high school football play of the year on www.maxpreps.com.
The popular high school sports website held a nationwide play-of-the-year tournament in December with online voting determining each winner, and a one-handed catch in the end zone by Grizzlies receiver Adam Wagner advanced to the final round.
Granite Bay, the eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion, and Nevada Union were tied at 14 when Wagner made his highlight-reel play on a 23-yard pass from quarterback Brendan Keeney. Wagner said the Grizzlies, who went on to win 28-21, had three receivers in a tight bunch on the left side. One receiver ran a route to the left, another went 10 yards and out, and Wagner ran to the corner of the end zone.
“Brendan had three options,” said Wagner, who split coverage by a cornerback and the safety. “I looked up and saw the ball coming to me. We practiced that so many times. Once I saw the ball, I fended off the corner with my left hand. I remember seeing it. I bobbled it a little bit. When I stood up, I couldn’t even believe I just did it.”
Wagner, speaking by phone Wednesday during the ride to Grass Valley for an SFL wrestling meet, noticed one day on maxpreps.com the play was rated one of the top 25 catches of the season. The next week, it was one of 16 plays entered in MaxMadness.
Steve Montoya, director of editorial and content, executive editor at maxpreps.com, said MaxMadness began with basketball last season. The editorial staff picked the top plays — submitted by users and coaches — each week throughout the season.
The staff determined the seeding for each play and filled in a tournament bracket. Fans did the rest with two days of voting in each round.
Wagner’s play defeated, in order:
• A 78-yard game-winning touchdown bomb from Cooper Bateman of Salt Lake City-Cottonwood to Sione Moli, who caught the ball in stride more than 65 yards from the point of release.
• A blocked field goal that was recovered by the kicking team — Cedar Grove, N.J. — and run a short distance for a touchdown with the ball carrier in the middle of a mob of players from each team.
• And a double pass by Costa Mesa-Estancia on which Levi Stillman did two 360-degree spins in succession to avoid two tackles before heaving a 39-yard scoring pass — as he was hit again — to Jazz Hill.
Wagner’s one-hander finally lost in the final to a short touchdown run by quarterback Harvey Evan of Keystone Heights, Fla. Evan began to scramble from just inside the 15-yard line when he was stripped of the ball. He reached behind his back and spun 360 degrees to grab the ball, headed right and then cut back left to the end zone.
Montoya said the two finalists were the two top vote-getters in each round. Wagner’s closest margin of victory was about 60 percent to 40 percent, and the final was tight, a difference of a “couple thousand” in a vote that received close to 50,000 total.
“You could tell what communities got behind each play,” Montoya said. “Ultimately, that’s how he made it to the finals.”
Wagner said he tried to get everyone he could to vote.
“It just kept moving on and moving on,” said Wagner, an All-SFL selection who caught nine passes for 153 yards in the game. “It was fun for me all the way through. It was pretty exciting to see my face on there and stuff.”