Jaguars win football opener in thrilling fashion
September 02, 2013It took a wild fourth quarter that came down to the final six seconds, but when the dust settled on Friday night's season-opening football game between Valley Center and Mar Vista, the Jaguars escaped with a 34–33 win.
The exciting game was tied at 14 at halftime — Valley Center scored on a 94-yard kickoff return by Anthony Ricks and a 62-yard bomb from Daniel DeLeon to Luke Konyn in the first half — but in the final 3:34 of the fourth quarter, each team scored two touchdowns, the final score coming with 6.4 seconds left on the clock to give the Jaguars the win.
"I don't know how that happened, but I know you never gave up," head coach Rob Gilster told his team after the crazy finish. "We made a whole lot of mistakes. I can count ten ways that we should have lost that game. But I can count ten ways why we hung in there and won. You believed that we could win and you did it. It's an all-time ugly win, but that makes it a beautiful win."
The Mariners had taken a 21–20 lead late in the third quarter thanks to a blocked extra point earlier in the period and a big play on the ground that went 71 yards for a touchdown.
But after forcing a Mar Vista punt late in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars got the lead back on a 59-yard touchdown run by Brad Dozier (watch online). The two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, however, leaving VC with a 26–21 lead.
Mar Vista responded with a touchdown drive and a failed two-point conversion of its own, giving the Mariners a 27–26 lead with 1:35 left on the clock.
Watch more footage from the game at Sports Editor Dan Kidder's YouTube channel.
Valley Center had a chance to drive down the field with all three timeouts, but on the second play of the series, DeLeon's pass was intercepted and returned to the Jags' one-yard line.
Instead of trying to run down the clock to force Valley Center to use its timeouts, the Mariners ran a quarterback sneak on first down and scored immediately to take a seven-point lead. They did the safe thing and tried to kick the extra point, but the Jaguars blocked it to keep the deficit at seven with 1:09 left in the game.
Jared Gilster (number 2, above) lost his helmet during a critical play with 24 seconds in the game. Play stopped and prospects looked bleak for Valley Center who ultimately prevailed.
"As soon as they scored, I said 'We can still win!'" Coach Gilster said of the quick touchdown.
Seven plays and exactly 1:03 later, the Jaguars scored to pull within one.
The drive took a turn for the crazy when Jared Gilster took a pass on third down and turned upfield. He was hit from behind and lost the football, and the Mariners appeared to recover. But his helmet was knocked off while the ball was still loose, and the referees correctly signaled a stop in play due to rules designed for player safety. The ball stayed with Valley Center with 24 seconds left in the game.
"Right when they called the play, I knew we needed the first down so I had to stretch my route to about 12 yards," Gilster said after the game. "I just tried to stay calm and I asked God to give me the power to make a play to help my team. After I caught it, I cut back to the middle, and I don't usually cut back like that. When I got hit, my helmet popped off, but I was just mad that I lost the ball."
Two plays later, taking a snap at the Mar Vista seven-yard line with 12 seconds on the clock, DeLeon looked for an open receiver but couldn't find one, so he tucked the ball down and ran for the goal line, diving across for the score.
Head coach Rob Gilster immediately called for the offense to stay on the field for the two-point conversion, and called the same play from the previous attempt that fell incomplete. This time, DeLeon fired a strike to Josh Lucas for the score and the lead.
The Jags kicked off and Mar Vista had one final play for a desperation play, but Garrett Castner broke through the line and sacked the quarterback to end the game.
Josh Lucas (number 26, above) scored the winning 2-point conversion.
"I thought we won, then we lost, then we won," Coach Gilster said of the roller-coaster ride of a finish. "We're young, we're green and we made a lot of mistakes, but we can be a pretty explosive team. This was a big win for us because we're so young. A win like this gives us a lot of confidence and shows us that we don't need to doubt ourselves."
"It means a whole lot to get this win because it puts it into perspective how we need to play all game the way we played in the fourth quarter," DeLeon said. "Our coaches will help get us on the same page so we know how to fix what was wrong to get us in that situation. But being able to come back to get the win, it definitely builds chemistry."
DeLeon completed 11 of 24 passes for 183 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also picked up 14 yards on the ground, including his seven-yard touchdown run in the game's closing seconds.
Ricks was the favorite target, as he hauled in four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown, while Luke Konyn had one catch for 62 yards and a score, Gilster had two receptions for 51 yards, Lucas had two catches for 20 yards and Dozier had a catch for four yards.
On the ground, Dozier had a rough first half with six carries for only 20 yards, but bounced back for a strong second half to total 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Valley Center took the opening kickoff and tried to cash in on a big play, but couldn't connect on first down. DeLeon was sacked for the first of five times in the game on third down and the Jags punted away.
Mar Vista responded with a five-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to take a 7–0 lead with 8:27 left in the first quarter.
But the Jaguars tied the game in an instant, as Ricks galloped 94 yards through the defense to score on the ensuing kickoff, tying the game at seven just 13 seconds later.
The Mariners were putting together another good drive in response, but three first downs, the drive stalled and they tried a 32-yard field goal, which sailed wide left.
The Jags came right back to take the lead, going 80 yards in only three plays, as DeLeon dropped a perfect pass into the arms of Konyn as he broke free from the defense on a 62-yard touchdown that put Valley Center up 14–7 with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
The teams traded punts, then Mar Vista bounced back with a six-play, 49-yard drive that finished with an 11-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 14 with more than ten minutes left before the half.
Neither team could put any more points on the board before halftime and the score remained tied as the teams talked over their second-half strategy.
Mar Vista's first possession ended with a punt, and the Jaguars picked up the pace on offense to drive 67 yards in eight plays and score another go-ahead touchdown. The score came on a nine-yard slant pass from DeLeon to Ricks, but the extra point was blocked, keeping the Valley Center lead at 20–14 with 6:05 left in the third quarter.
The Jags had a golden opportunity to extend the lead when a Mar Vista handoff exchange turned into a fumble that Derikie Blaze-Logan recovered at the Mariners' 37-yard line.
But after coming up short on third down, the Jaguars went for it on fourth-and-two and couldn't complete a quick pass, giving the ball back to the Mariners at their own 29.
Mar Vista scored on the next play, a 71-yard touchdown run that gave the Mariners a 21–20 lead with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The next four drives all ended in punts, and the Jaguars got the ball back, trailing by one with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Ten seconds later, they had the lead once again, as Dozier took the handoff on a draw, cut back at the line of scrimmage, and ran away from the defense to score a 59-yard touchdown. The Jaguars went for two and tried to complete a pass from DeLeon to Lucas, but the ball was knocked away by the defense, giving Valley Center a 26–21 lead with 3:34 left on the clock.
Mar Vista pulled ahead once again with a five-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 56-yard touchdown pass. But when the Mariners tried to increase the lead to three points by going for two, they couldn't get the play in on time and were called for delay of game. They still went for two, but the quarterback run toward the sideline came up about a yard short of the goal line, keeping the score 27–26 with 1:35 remaining in the game.
The Jaguars, still holding all three timeouts and expecting to have more than a minute in which to drive down the field for a game-winning score, were stunned by an interception on second down and a Mar Vista return to the Valley Center one-yard line with 1:11 left on the clock.
The Jaguar defense revved up down the stretch, setting the stage for a last-second victory.
The Mariners scored on a quarterback keeper on the next play and tried to kick the extra point, but it was blocked, keeping the score 33–26 with 1:09 left in the game.
The Jaguars were helped out by an offside penalty on the Mariners on the ensuing kickoff, and a good return that resulted in a drive that started from the Valley Center 40-yard line.
After an incompletion, DeLeon connected with Ricks for nine yards on second down, and on third down he scrambled for five yards to pick up a first down with 50 seconds left in the game. Another incompletion made it second down, and DeLeon hit Gilster on a hook across the middle for a first down. Gilster turned upfield and had a good gain before he was caught from behind and the ball came loose. The play was whistled down when Gilster's helmet came off, and the Jaguars kept the ball and their chance at a comeback.
On the next play, DeLeon tried to fit in a pass to Ricks in the corner of the endzone, but Mar Vista was penalized for pass interference, moving the ball half the distance to the goal line, which was the seven-yard line.
From there, DeLeon scrambled in for the go-ahead score and completed the two-point pass to Lucas that won the game.
Next up for the Jaguars is another home game on Friday night, as Brawley comes to town. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.