In a Friday playoff battle featuring two of the premier running backs in Northern Nevada, it was McQueen's Lucas Weber who won the first half.
Damonte Ranch's Drew Smith, though, came back to win the second half -- and the game.
Smith rushed for his third touchdown -- a 24-yard sideline-hugging burst -- with 2:47 left to play to lift the Mustangs to a 21-20 win over McQueen in the Division I North regional semifinals at Damonte Ranch.
With the win, the Mustangs (6-5) continue their improbable season and advance to the first region final in the school's short history. Damonte Ranch will face Reed for the Division I North title next Friday at Mackay Stadium.
McQueen, which was 1-4 at one point, finished 5-6.
"It's not just Drew; it's this entire team. Both sides of the ball: they just have a never-say-die attitude," first-year Damonte Ranch coach Shawn Dupris said. "I couldn't be prouder of them. They just keep pounding away, pounding away, and we got some big plays to finally get some momentum going."
No play was bigger for the Mustangs than Matthew Barrett's blocked punt late in the third quarter, which set Damonte Ranch up at the McQueen 8-yard line. It took just a single play for Smith to punch the ball in for his second score of the night, cutting the Lancers' lead to 17-14 and energizing the Mustangs' sideline as the fourth quarter approached.
"That was absolutely huge; we got a quick score out of that, changed the momentum and just kept rolling." Dupris said.
On McQueen's next series, the Lancers lost Weber for the rest of the evening. The McQueen running back was slow to get up and appeared slightly off-balance after being swarmed by the Damonte defense following his 17th carry of the night. He finished with 78 yards, most coming when he led the Lancers' attack in the first half. His 1-yard touchdown plunge with 4:02 left in the first quarter opened the game's scoring.
Things continued to go south for McQueen in the fourth quarter. Leading 20-14 and looking to finish off a long, clock-milking drive, the Lancers came away with no points when kicker Tyler Fritsen, who had already converted two field goals, hit the left upright on a 41-yard attempt. Had the ball been a foot to the right, McQueen would have had a two-possession lead with less than 6 minutes to play.
"We've had some tough losses this year, and this was another tough one." McQueen coach Jim Snelling said. "The kids played hard, and that's all you can ask for. The bottom line is that we didn't come out on top, but hat's off to Damonte Ranch. They did a great job, and they made big plays when they had to have them."
Smith picked up 94 yards on 20 carries. He finished the first half by losing 21 yards while reversing direction multiple times in a futile attempt to escape the McQueen rush, but he had a number of key runs for the Mustangs in the second half, including gains of 27, 17 and 24 yards.
"Drew Smith is a heck of a running back," Snelling said. "That was a great run he made at the end."