Leave it to Mark Vicente to make things interesting.
Down by two points and facing an 86-yard drive with just over three minutes left, the Sierra High School senior quarterback caved to heavy pressure by the Central Valley defense and ended up getting called for intentional grounding in the end zone – an automatic safety and a kickoff back to the Hawks that looked like it sealed the game.
But when Jacob Petersen recovered the onside kick for the Timberwolves, Vicente returned back to his CIF State Championship form on the ensuing drive – connecting with Eriq Kurys on a pair of passes to set up a 39-yard strike to Jesse Babauta that gave Sierra a 28-26 lead with less than two minutes to play in the contest.
Seuseu Alofaituli sealed the victory when he intercepted a halfback pass on Central Valley’s last-ditch attempt to pull ahead.
“When I let that ball go I felt like I let the whole team down and it was all my fault, so I had to come out and do something to correct it,” said Vicente. “We always have a fight in us. We beat teams in the second half and I think that we showed that tonight – we showed why we condition the way that we do.”
The victory, however, was anything but routine.
While Sierra struck first on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Vicente to Daemon Duran, the Hawks answered back with a 25-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Barragan and took the lead when Angel Lopez converted the PAT attempt.
But Vicente wasn’t about to go gently into the good night.
To open the second quarter he connected with Duran again on a 14-yard pass that gave the Timberwolves the lead once again, and Marcus Castillo’s conversion run made in a 14-7 ballgame.
That’s when the Hawks showed up.
Central Valley scored two unanswered rushing touchdowns to round out the first half and would have held a 14-point lead heading into the half had it not been for a goal line stand by the Sierra defense that ended with a fumble recovery and gave them the opportunity to run out the clock.
Vicente tacked on another touchdown pass in the third quarter when he connected with Castillo – who ran in the conversation attempt to give the Timberwolves a 22-21 lead.
Central Valley answered when Lopez booted a 39-yard field goal to take the lead, and then earn the safety by giving Vicente absolutely nowhere to go but back and into the end zone.
While the win wasn’t a pretty one, Sierra High head coach Jeff Harbison said that it showed the fight in his players and reinforced why they work as hard as they do at practice during the week – so that they have something left in the tank to make it happen when it counts.
“I told the guys when I was talking to them after the game – this is why we condition,” Harbison said. “We’re a second half team, and while it took us a while to get things going we finally got there. The offense did what they had to do in order to score points and the defense played the way they needed to in order to hold them to three points in the second half.
“Resiliency was the word tonight.”
Vicente finished the game 16-of-25 for 272 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Duran finished the game with six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns, while Castillo rushed for 32 yards on 16 carries and had a receiving touchdown and two conversion runs.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.