MODESTO — MODESTO - Three Golden Valley defenders were in the area as Downey quarterback P.J. Wilson's pass was tipped in the air.
However, all they could do was watch as Downey receiver Josh Lowe snatched the ball near the sideline and raced 42 yards for the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that lifted the Knights to a 42-39 win in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night at Chuck Hughes Stadium.
The Cougars had a potential game-winning drive stopped when Mario Lopez intercepted a Steven Alvarez pass at the Knights' 10-yard line with 1 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game.
Golden Valley head coach Dennis Stubbs tried one last effort to tie the game by using a rare free kick after the Cougars called for a fair catch on a punt with 19 seconds left, but Cesar Tellez's 58-yard attempt fell short.
"It's a rule hardly anybody knows," Stubbs said. "I had to tell Jashaan (Wright) to call for a fair catch and we had to explain to the kids what we were doing."
Wilson ignited a second-half comeback that saw the Knights erase a 12-point deficit midway through the third quarter.
Wilson entered the game in the third quarter and led Downey on three scoring drives. Wilson made plays with his arm and legs. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 117 yards and two touchdown passes. He added 41 yards on five carries.
"It sucks because we worked so hard," said Wright who caught three passes for 115 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown and also intercepted a pass on defense. "Next week we'll be back at it. Nobody expected us to be in this game but we were."
The game started with a flurry of points with Downey taking a 20-19 lead after the first quarter.
Wright's touchdown catch just before the half and Isaiah Peterson's 59-yard fumble return to start the third quarter gave the Cougars a 32-20 lead. Peterson finished with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries on offense.
Downey answered with 15 straight points to close the third quarter to take a 35-32 lead. Golden Valley's Ty Jones (107 rushing yards) gave the lead at 39-35 with a 2-yard touchdown run, but Wilson found Jones for the game-winner on Downey's next drive.
"I was really proud of how hard our guys played," Stubbs said. "We start the game with three mistakes and were able to drive 70 yards for a touchdown. All we teach is to play hard and they did that."
DOWNEY 42, GOLDEN VALLEY 39 At Chuck Hughes Stadium
Golden Valley 19 6 7 7 - 39 Downey 20 0 15 7 - 42
First Quarter GV - Isaiah Peterson 4 run (kick failed) GV - Desmone Borden 25 fumble return (kick good) D - Tristan Best 54 pass from Logan Cody (Josh Lowe pass from Cody) D - Jakob Magana 75 punt return (run failed) D - Jose Acosta 43 interception return (kick failed) GV - Peterson 2 run (kick failed)
Second Quarter GV - Jashaan Wright 39 pass from Steven Alvarez (pass failed)
Third Quarter GV - Peterson 59 fumble return (kick good) D - Jeffry Jones 20 pass from P.J. Wilson (kick good) D - Mario Sanchez 5 run (Sanchez run
Fourth Quarter GV - Ty Jones 2 run (kick good) D - Josh Jones 42 pass from Wilson (kick good). Records: Golden Valley 0-1; Downey 1-0.
JV - Downey won 56-0.