Before a full house of some 8,000 at College of the Canyons on Friday night, Hart and Canyon placed another memorable page into the book of their storied rivalry.
In a game of big plays, Hart made a few more and came away with a 32-27 win in an opener for both schools.
With Canyon driving in the final minutes for what would have been the winning score, Hart defensive back Doug Socha recovered a fumble by Canyon sophomore running back Ed Williams on the Hart six-yard line with 2 minutes 8 seconds to play.
Hart had taken the lead for the final time after senior quarterback Ryan Connors hit Davis Delmatoff on a quick slant with just 3:42 to play. The 49-yard touchdown pass was the final stroke of a magnificent effort from Connors, who directed Hart's new no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense by completing 22 of 42 for 387 yards and four touchdowns.
"Hart is a real fine team with a real fine offense and I was really impressed with Connors," Canyon Coach Harry Welch said, striding off the field quickly.
Canyon had taken a 27-26 fourth-quarter lead when quarterback Chad Engbrecht scored on a one-yard sneak with 7:23 left. Engbrecht's run capped a 55-yard drive.
Hart had gone ahead, 26-20, earlier in the quarter when Deriek Charles took a screen pass from Connors 40 yards for a touchdown.
Charles' score answered a late third-quarter touchdown by Canyon. On that drive, Williams carried four consecutive times for 40 yards, capping matters with a seven-yard run. Williams, in his first varsity game, rolled up 204 yards in 26 carries.
"That's not one of the strongest Canyon teams ever and we let them run up and down the field on us," Hart Coach Mike Herrington said.
Perhaps the game's biggest play opened the second half. With the score tied, 14-14, Hart blooped an onside kick to a stunned Canyon return team. After the ball was bobbled, Hart recovered on the Cowboy 44-yard line and, six plays later, scored on a one-yard run by Doug Distaso.
"We thought about opening the game with it," Herrington said. "The way our defense was playing, we figured, what the heck."
Canyon's next score was set up after Mike Torres drilled Hart receiver Ted Kiester after a completion. Kiester fumbled, Canyon recovered, and Williams rumbled in to tie the score, 20-20, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
For all the offense, the first half's biggest play was a defensive one. With Hart leading, 14-7 midway through the second quarter, Delmatoff recovered a fumble by Williams at Hart's 26.
From there, Connors directed the Indians to Canyon's 10-yard line. On third and nine, Connors lofted a pass toward the end zone, but Canyon defensive back Rick Harbo batted the ball into the air, then caught it.
Canyon then embarked on an 80-yard drive to tie the score, 14-14. Engbrecht hit Chris Spahr for a 19-yard gain, but it was one of just two passes on a 10-play march. Canyon fullback Torres bulled his way in from eight yards and the conversion with 4:04 left in the half tied the score.