On the first kickoff of the season, the Cardinals' Shandon Hadley ran the ball back to the end zone for the first points.
It was only fitting that Hadley also would score the last.
Playing Thursday night at Woodbury Sports Complex, the fifth- and sixth-grade Cardinals managed to top the Steelers, 26-21, to win the Craig Parks and Recreation Doak Walker Football Championship game.
And it all came down to the last minute.
With the Steelers ahead, 21-20, the Cardinals regained the ball on their 30-yard line.
After two Kort Hathhorn runs to get the team near midfield, the Cardinals found a play from the back of the book.
"I saw the ball go up and saw it soaring over me," Hadley said. "I just stuck out my hands, caught it and ran as fast as I could."
Hadley, a quarterback, was the fifth Cardinal to touch the ball in a play known as the "pitch-pass."
Center Bronc Hellander snapped the ball to Hadley, who handed it off to running back Garrett Uptain who lobbed it to Dwane Wiseman who threw the pass down the field to Hadley.
"I have to thank God," Hadley said. "It was an awesome game."
The first half was a duel between defenses.
Cardinals' defense coordinator Shane Hadley threw several different looks at the Steelers' offense, while the Steelers aggressive attack slowed down the Cardinals.
Hathhorn scored the only touchdown of the first half, following his blockers to
a 50-yard sprint to the end zone.
The second half saw an offensive explosion, as Dusty Taylor of the Steelers pounded the ball in from five yards out to put the score at 7-6 in favor of the Cardinals.
The Cardinals responded immediately, as Hathhorn ran the kickoff in for a touchdown.
But as soon as the Cardinals were up, 14-6, the Steelers came roaring back, with Ed Guevara running the ensuing kickoff in for six points of his own.
A successful two-point conversion knotted the two teams at 14-14.
The Cardinals again called Hathhorn's number, as he rumbled through tacklers to retake the lead, 20-14.
With time running out, Guevara broke several tackles to reach the end zone, and the Steelers led, 21-14.
Hathhorn, who scored three of the Cardinals four touchdowns, said his favorite play of the game was watching one of his teammates score.
"Shandon's a good receiver," he said. "As soon as he caught it, I knew he was going to score a touchdown because no one can catch him."
One reason Hathhorn was able to score was because of the aggressive blocking of the Cardinals' Jysten Madsen.
Not only was she the only girl to play in the fifth- and sixth-grade league, she was integral to the Cardinals' attack as a member of the offensive line.
Madsen, who started playing this fall, said there was one simple reason she adorned the pads and set foot on the gridiron.
"I just wanted to show the boys that girls can play, too," she said. "And girls can be good players."
The Cardinals (7-1) had lost to the Steelers in their second game of the season.
But coach Justin Gallegos said the Cardinals were not out to avenge the earlier loss, but to honor a former Moffat County football hero.
"We dedicated this game to Cory Pike," he said. "Dave (Pike) helped start this league, and we wish them the best and wish they could have been here to see the game."
Cory Pike is battling Burkitt's lymphoma.
"Our hearts go out to them," Gallegos said. "Everyone on both sides is thinking about Cory."
When it came to the football field, Gallegos said his players never took their focus away from the game.
"They played outstanding today," he said. "We didn't make mistakes."
Shane Hadley said the Cardinals showed resiliency, despite being down late in the fourth quarter.
"The kids never gave up or quit," he said. "You can't coach that. That came from their hearts."