Two undefeated teams, a combined 19 penalties, three failed 2-point conversion tries, more than 700 yards of offense and a four-minute, 21-second, 61-yard game-winning drive, all jumbled together to produce the two most important figures in a gritty, physical, hard-nosed contest that was destined to go down to the wire.
Trailing 18-14, MVC quarterback Taylor Cohan connected with Eric Griffen in the back of the end zone with 19 seconds left, lifting the Mustangs to a 20-18 victory over the Cougars.
“That’s like playoff football,” CHS linebacker Patrick Mank said. “In the end it comes down to them beating us. We can’t let penalties take us out of the game. We have to deal with it. We have to get better.”
The Cougars (5-1 overall, 2-1 MBL) were less than five minutes away from spoiling the Mustangs’ homecoming after Brandon Pickens hit Marcus Harrell on a slant, which Harrell turned into a shifty 47-yard sprint to pay dirt for Christopher’s first lead of the game with 4:40 showing on the clock.
“We left them too much time on the clock. We scored too quick,” CHS head coach Tim Pierleoni said. “And then we didn’t make some stops when we had the chance.”
Christopher’s fine-tuned defense, which did force two turnovers, had three sacks and surrendered a modest 237 total yards, missed three golden opportunities to prevent the backbreaking finish.
MVC (6-0 overall, 2-0 MBL) converted on fourth-down-and-15, third-and-11 and third-and-5 on the drive, the latter Cohan’s winner to Griffen.
“That’s the moments we dream about since we are little kids,” Cohan said. “That was awesome.”
Cohan dialed up his 6-foot-3 wide receiver Austin Daich on the critical fourth-and-15 from the Cougars’ 43-yard line, and teamed with Griffen on the third-and-11 for 13 yards.
“It just comes down to execution at the end,” Mank said.
The Mustangs clung to a 14-6 lead – Cougars’ receiver Rayshon Mills was tackled at the 2-yard line at the tail end of a 21-yard pass completion as time expired – into the locker room. A whacky start to the third quarter, which included a failed CHS onside kick and a MVC halfback option pass that Bryant Cid intercepted, carried over into a scoreless quarter. The Cougars most promising drive in the third fizzled after Pickens was picked off at Monte Vista’s 3-yard line.
The first eight minutes of the fourth quarter, though, belonged to CHS. In a roundabout way, a jump ball to Cid on a halfback option play from Harrell good for 36 yards set the tone. Because three plays later, running back Nic Slater (21 carries, 218 yards, 2TDs), who had four rushes of 30 yards or more in the game, coasted untouched 30 yards to get CHS within one score at 14-12 with 8:21 to play.
“I thought that we could be a little more physical against them with our run game. And I think we did a good job with that,” Pierleoni said.
On the Mustangs’ ensuing drive, the Cougars withstood a successful fake punt, where Nick Matiasevich delivered a 25-yard pass to Josh Mooney – MVC’s second converted fake punt on the night – and eventually forced an actual punt with 5:32 left.
Three plays later the Cougars had the lead, albeit a short-lived advantage.
“It was a very good football game. The kids played tough,” Pierleoni said. “I loved the way they came back in the second half. I thought we dominated the second half.”
MVC jumped ahead with 52 seconds left in the opening quarter as Cohan hit Mooney in the flat for a 6-yard score. CHS and Slater tied it on the next set of downs. Slater broke about five tackles as he galloped 48 yards for the touchdown. CHS went for two and did not convert, leaving it 7-6. MVC climbed right back into the driver’s seat less than two minutes later after Raymond Rondez maneuvered his way 38 yards and across the goal line nine minutes before intermission.
“We are going to see how they respond to a little bit of adversity,” Pierleoni said. “It’s the way football is. You win some, you lose some. We just have to rebound. We are going to go back to work.”
CHS returns home to face North Monterey County (4-2 overall, 2-0 MBL – the Condors play Monterey on Saturday.) next Friday. It is homecoming for the Cougars.
NOTES: Pickens completed 18-of-36 passes for 231 yards, one TD and one interception… Cohan finished 17-of-33 for 154 yards, two touchdowns and one interception… Daich: 10 catches, 93 yards… Harrell: 4 catches, 103 yards… Total yards: CHS 465, MVC 237… Twelve of the 19 penalties were called against CHS and seven to MVC. Three of the 12 CHS infractions were unsportsmanlike-like conduct fouls and had one player ejected.
“We’ve talked about being a little bit more disciplined,” Pierleoni said. “But the kids play with a lot of fire and you don’t want to take that away from them. We need to work on being a little smarter. You have to overcome what ever you have to overcome to win the game.”
Six games, six shut outs and six wins. The CHS junior varsity teams defeated MVC 28-0 on Friday.
“The offensive side of the ball struggled, but where the offense struggled the defense picked up the slack,” head coach Manuel Muro said.
The defense stopped the Monte Vista Christian offense throughout the game, helped with two interceptions by Eddie Tinoco, and constant pressure on the quarterback by the defensive line of Marcus Delgado, Victor Sevillano, Andrie Arroyo, and Nick Raras.
Trevor Hadnot had three touchdowns, two on run plays, and the third by a 45 yd punt return. Brandon Bui scored the last touchdown of the game.