Wolverines Let Late Lead Slip Away

Wolverines Let Late Lead Slip Away

Facing a fourth down and 27 play from their own 16-yard line with 11 seconds to go in a tie game, the San Bernardino Valley College football coaching staff had a decision to make.

Either punt the ball away, and risk a blocked kick by an Allan Hancock defense that had several near misses on punts earlier in the game, or run a play and try to run out the clock and send the game to overtime.

Head coach Daniel Algattas opted for the latter. Quarterback Cooper Justice took the snap, held the ball rolled out to his left and threw the ball down field, where it was knocked down by Vic Garnes with two seconds left.

Hancock kicker Colton Theaker drilled the ball through the uprights from 33 yards out as time expired, sending the Wolverines home with a 37-34 loss.

It was a disappointing end to a thrilling game between the two teams which were elevated to the National Conference this season. The Wolverines led 14-7 at the half, and were up 34-27 with 10:12 to go in the game. SBVC had held the Bulldogs' offense to a field goal try on their ensuing fourth quarter possession, with Theaker missing short and wide right. And with no Hancock time outs left, the Wolverines looked to burn off some clock with 5:43 to go. But a quick three-and-out drive, and a bad punt later, and the Bulldogs were in business at the SBVC 45 with 4:09 to go.

The Bulldogs needed six plays to get into the end zone to tie the game with 1:06 to go, setting up the final drama.

SBVC started the game well, taking its opening drive 94 yards in 11 plays, with running back Xavier Ugorji carrying most of the load. He ran the ball seven times for 44 yards on the drive, capping it off with a 5-yard run to put the Wolverines ahead 6-0.

Hancock tied it early in the second quarter. Maurice Smith broke loose for a 60-yard run on the first play of the drive - easily eclipsing Hancock's offensive output in the first quarter. He followed it up three plays later with a 5-yard run. Theaker's kick made it 7-6.

The Wolverines took the lead before the half, as Ugorji capped a seven-play, 92-yard drive, staying on his feet along the sideline and busting loose on a 45-yard run. Justice hit Eric Wells for the two-point try, making it 14-7 at the half.

Running back Austin Bacher got in on the action in the second half, busting out a 54-yard run to give the Wolverines a short-lived 20-7 lead. Because on the ensuing kick off, Christian Erickson returned Julian Pan's kick 87 yards to make it 20-14.

Hancock took the lead on its next possession, as Zidane Thomas busted loose for a 22-yard run, making 21-20. But San Bernardino answered back, with a third-and-1 play following a Hancock timeout from Justice to Ugorji, splitting the defense and scoring from 31 yards out to make it 26-21. 

Maurice Smith took the lead back for Hancock on the first play of the fourth quarter, scoring from 1 yard out. The two-point try was stopped, making it 27-26.

The Wolverines got a bounce on the ensuing drive to take the lead back. Faced with a fourth-and-17 from the Hancock 32, Justice threw a pass that deflected off a Hancock defender, bounded high in the air and was caught by Eric Wells for a 27-yard gain. Bacher finished the drive from 5 yards out, setting up the final battle. 

Overall, the Wolverines outgained the Bulldogs 410-329 in the game, with the SBVC ground game doing the most damage. Bacher carried the ball 16 times for 130 yards and two scores, while Ugorji ran 17 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns.