For the second straight year, the San Bernardino Valley College football team went to the American Championship Bowl.
And, for the second straight year, a rough first half left the Wolverines chasing the game. This year, the opponent, Chaffey, slammed the door in the fourth quarter, squashing a comeback attempt to beat SBVC 33-20 in front of almost 2,000 fans at SBVC Stadium.
The Panthers marched down the field on the game's opening drive, taking eight plays to get into the end zone, as Devan Imbach plowed in from a yard out.
The Wolverines, without the services of record-setting quarterback Jeremy Moussa, turned to David Schmucker to lead the offense. Schmucker, who only saw limited action since week one, struggled out of the gate. SBVC was forced to punt at the end of each of its six drives in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Death Valley Defense was keeping the Wolverines in the game. After conceding the opening touchdown, the Wolverines took a bend-don't-break approach to stopping the Panthers. They kept Chaffey out of the end zone on their next two drives, forcing Chaffey to take two field goals from kicker Nick Lawson to take a 13-0 lead at the half. Lawson added another in the third quarter to make it 16-0.
SBVC finally got the offense moving in the third quarter, as they took advantage of a Chaffey mistake. Punting from their 16-yard-line, Ben Falck sent a kick out toward midfield where Omari Sanders had troubles with the ball, muffing it, allowing Mike Estivine to cover the ball at the Wolverines' 48. With new life, Schmucker found Cobe Stribling on the run and he was into the end zone from 52 yards out, to move the score to 16-7.
The Wolverines went to their bag of tricks to close within two points to start the fourth. Schmucker flipped the ball to Tate Pringle, who threw on the run to Darrell Turner Jr., who made an acrobatic catch in the end zone, bringing the home crowd alive.
But Chaffey responded with two big plays from quarterback Caleb Arreola. After a late-hit penalty against SBVC set up Chaffey near midfield, Arreola hit Javion Lofton-Wilson down the sideline for a 40-yard gain to the SBVC 18. Two plays later, Tavoi Hoching dove across the pylon on a 17-yard pass play to put Chaffey up 23-14.
Schmucker led the Wolverines back within three, hitting Kade Greeley on the ensuing drive, but the Panthers answered again, as Shakeli Brown shook two tacklers and went in from 32 yards out.
But the dagger came on the next drive. Forced to go for it on a fourth-and-17 from midfield, Schmucker was intercepted by Simeon Burns, who returned the ball to the SBVC 16 with 3:51 left. Lawson nailed one last field goal with a minute left to ice the game.