Avalon rallied twice from deficits, but it was Foothills Christian that had the final say as they scored with 3:27 left in the game to escape with a 40-36 victory in an eight-man football game on Friday at Jr. Seau Field in San Diego.
Avalon had put together a 89-yard drive early in the fourth quarter that ended with an Antonio Ramos touchdown run that gave the Lancers a 36-32 lead with 7:06 left in the game. The drive started with a false start penalty, but Ramos connected with Adalberto Martinez on a 16-yard pass to convert the first down and move the ball to the 22 yard line.
Martinez later added a 14-yard run and caught another 20-yard pass from Ramos that moved the ball to the Knights’ 30 yard line. A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 15 and two plays later, Ramos ran the ball in for the go-ahead touchdown.
But the Knights, who won the CIF-San Diego Section championship last year, were able to answer with a 70-yard drive of their own. Senior quarterback Kevin Helfers used his feet and his arm to orchestrate the drive, capping it with an 11-yard touchdown run with just 3:27 left in the game.
The Lancers had time, but an interception by the Knights’ Tanner Corey gave the ball back to Foothills. The Lancers had a chance to get the ball back, but a facemask penalty on a fourth down try gave Foothills a first down and they were able to run out the clock from there.
The Lancers had several key turnovers that killed drives, as well as other mistakes that Head Coach Michael Forcella said were key to their demise.
“The biggest thing was, we shot ourselves in the foot … so it’s on us,” Forcella said.
The Lancers stumbled early, allowing the Knights to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown and an early lead. But the Lancers rallied and had taken a 28-20 lead into halftime. But after receiving the second-half kickoff, the Lancers fumbled the ball away, giving the Knights the ball at their own 31 yard line. Four plays later, Helfers took a quarterback keeper around the right side for a 24-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 28-26.
The Lancers went four and out on their ensuing possession, but this time, Martinez was able to come up with an interception for the Lancers to get the ball right back. However, the Lancers would again fumble the ball away, this time at the Foothills 21 yard line. That set up the Knights’ 79-yard scoring drive to take the lead. Martinez, one of the team’s captains, said the team made mental mistakes that led to turnovers and big plays for Foothills.
“I feel like the team, mentally, wasn’t there and that’s what caused us to put our heads down and it caused turnovers, and we couldn’t tackle,” Martinez said.
Ramos threw for 300 yards, with 142 of those yards going to Martinez. Ramos also led the team in rushing with 105 of the teams’ 199 rushing yards. But the Lancer defense struggled to contain the Knights down the stretch. Helfers ran for 142 yards on 12 carries as the Knights racked up 328 rushing yards.
The Lancers felt like they let a win slip away, and Forcella is urging them to use those feelings to refocus on their objective. He said many of the players, including his four captains, were a part of the teams 2-6 season two years ago and that they will be the ones to help this year’s team get back on track.
“This team, and it’s going to be up to them, is either going to let this drive them, or we’re going to remain where we’re at, and I know these four (captains) will not allow that to happen,” Forcella said.
The Lancers (1-1) will again have a big challenge this week, as they travel to Animo Robinson of Los Angeles. Animo (2-1) are the defending CIF-City Section champs. The game is scheduled for Saturday at noon, at Animo Robinson.