A Pleasant Ending For Fullerton

Eli Pleasant caught 6 passes for 104 yards, including a pair of touchdowns in the final eight minutes as Fullerton rallied from a thirteen-point deficit to edge visiting Palomar in a key National Division Central Conference match-up Friday night.

Conor Bednarski threw for 272 yards and 3 scores, and Alex Bernstein returned a blocked extra point kick for two points and had the game-clinching interception in the final minute for the Hornets.

Though the score was close all the way, Fullerton (3-4. 2-1) held a lead for just the final 1:42 after Pleasant took a short slant pass and sped through the defense for a 35-yard scoring play to cap the Hornet comeback. Jesse Aguilar's extra point kick made it 33-32, and Bernstein made that one-point lead stand up with his interception of a 4th down pass with 28 seconds left.

Palomar (3-4, 1-2) led most of the way, though Fullerton tied the game twice including at 19-19 with 5:23 left in the third quarter when Bednarski threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Longoria and Aguilar added the extra point. That capped a quick, 4-play drive that covered 71 yards and seemed to swing the momentum in Fullerton's favor.

But Palomar answered with two quick touchdowns to take what seemed like a commanding 32-19 advantage. Ryan Lamb threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to big Ryan Ena to break the tie, though Jon Halliday's extra point try was wide left, and that would loom large later in the game. After a short punt by Fullerton's Nick O'Toole, Chad Dobbins capped a 10-play, 45-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, and Halliday's extra point gave the Comets a 32-19 lead with 11:33 left in the game.

Fullerton cut the deficit to six points on Pleasant's first touchdown catch, an 18-yard toss from Bednarski with 7:57 left. But Palomar seemed primed to take control of the game again, driving to the Hornet 19 with under four minutes to go. However, on one disastrous play the Comets lost an astounding 46 yards - a bad snap and fumble followed by a pair of 15-yard penalties - to lose any hope of a field goal that would have made it a two-possession game. Palomar instead punted the ball away with 2:29 left, giving Fullerton plenty of time for Pleasant's game-winning catch on the decisive drive.

Palomar scored the only touchdown of the first quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Lamb to Ena midway through the quarter. And the Comets were driving for another score when Fullerton's aptly-named Isaiah Fullerton-Talley stripped the ball from Palomar's Mike Hodges and Simon Poti recovered the fumble. That led to a 10-play, 76-yard drive for the Hornets with Ryan Byrd scoring on a 2-yard run in the first minute of the second quarter.

Palomar got two field goals from Halliday to take a 13-7 lead, the second coming with one second left in the half moments after an off-sides penalty negated what would have been an interception by Fullerton's Najee James.

Aguilar hit a 47-yard field goal for Fullerton on its first drive of the second half to cut the margin to three points. Palomar got a touchdown when Lamb scored on a 1-yard sneak midway through the third quarter to make it 19-10. But the extra point try was blocked, and Bernstein picked up the ball and returned it for two points for the Hornets to make it 19-12. Then Bednarski's first touchdown pass enabled Fullerton to tie the score at 19.

Palomar had one last chance for the win after Pleasant's last touchdown, but by then Lamb was out of the game with a shoulder injury. Central Florida bounceback Tyler Bergman entered the game and got the Comets to the Fullerton 36, but the drive stalled there. After two incomplete passes sandwiched around a sack by Fullerton's Melvin Lewis, Bergman lofted a desperation 4th down pass down the left sideline that was intercepted by Bernstein, clinching the win for Fullerton.

For the Hornets, Bednarski completed 20 of 32 passes for 272 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Byrd led all rushers with 142 yards on 18 carries, while Lavorrie Johnson added 64 yards on 14 carries. Pleasant's 6 catches for 104 yards led Hornet receivers, and his two touchdowns were extremely important. On defense, Bernstein had the two big plays and linebacker Josh Seiler was a visible standout all night.

For Palomar, Lamb finished 25 for 39 passing for 370 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Dobbins rushed for 114 yards on 22 carries. Anthony Mount, a 5-6 speedster from local powerhouse Oceanside HS, had 6 catches for 132 yards. Ena, who played basketball at Imperial Valley College last year (and was one of IVC's top players), also had 6 catches, good for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Speedy Austin Dennis, a 5-foot-4 blur from Scripps Ranch, had 4 kickoff returns for 118 yards and a 49-yard catch as a receiver.

Fullerton Hornets 33, Palomar Comets 32

Saturday, October 20, 2012 - 6 pm - Fullerton District Stadium
National Division - Southern Conference

1st Quarter:
P - Ena 12 yd pass from Lamb (Halliday kick) 7:25 (0-7)

2nd Quarter:
F - R.Byrd 2 yd run (Aguilar kick) 14:17 (7-7)
P - FG Halliday 38 yds 11:49 (7-10)
P - FG Halliday 30 yds 0:01 (7-13)

3rd Quarter:
F - FG Aguilar 47 yds 10:37 (10-13)
P - Lamb 1 yd run (kick blocked) 7:19 (10-19)
F - Bernstein return of blocked extra point try 7:19 (12-19)
F - Longoria 23 yd pass from Bednarski (Aguilar kick) 5:23 (19-19)
P - Ena 2 yd pass from Lamb (kick wide left) 2:46 (19-25)

4th Quarter:
P - Dobbins 4 yd run (Halliday kick) 11:33 (19-32)
F - Pleasant 18 yd pass from Bednarski (Aguilar kick) 7:57 (26-32)
F - Pleasant 35 yd pass from Bednarski (Aguilar kick) 1:42 (33-32)

Team Statistics:
First Downs: Fullerton 28 (11 rush, 14 pass, 3 penalty), Palomar 21 (3 rush, 15 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Fullerton 38-211, Palomar 26-94
Passing Yds: Fullerton 294, Palomar 406
Comp-Att-Int: Fullerton 23-37-2, Palomar 27-41-1
Return Yds: Fullerton 123, Palomar 179
Sacks-Yds: Fullerton 2-5, Palomar 1-5
Fumbles-Lost: Fullerton 1-0, Palomar 2-1
Penalties-Yds: Fullerton 11-69, Palomar 13-135
Time of Possession: Fullerton 32:39, Palomar 27:41

Individual Statistics:
F 27-R.Byrd 18-142, 10-Johnson 14-64, 17-Escobar 3-12, 16-Bednarski 2-(-6), team 1-(-1); P 33-Dobbins 22-114, 13-Lamb 2-0, 15-Bergman 1-(-4), team 1-(-16)
Passing:   F 16-Bednarski 20-32-2-272, 3 TDs; 17-Escobar 3-5-0-22; P 13-Lamb 25-39-0-370, 2 TDs; 15-Bergman 2-5-1-36
Receiving:   F 24-Pleasant 6-104, 11-Longoria 3-50, 80-Mosley 3-25, 82-Sanders 3-22, 9-Floyd 2-28, 3-Williams 2-16, 27-R.Byrd 1-17, 8-Anumgba 1-16, 23-Blackamore 1-12, 10-Johnson 1-4; P 1-Mount 6-130, 85-Ena 6-82, 80-Bailey 5-64, 7-Hodges 3-41, 33-Dobbins 2-15, 46-Faapouli 2-8, 23-Dennis 1-49, 2-Harris 1-11, 81-Browning 1-6
Sacks-Yds: F 93-Lewis 1-4, 32-Owens 1-1; P 92-Knight 1-5
Interceptions-Ret Yds: F 35-Bernstein 1-9; P 17-Lee 1-27, 27-Thurman 1-20
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: F 47-Poti 1-0; P none
Punters: F 91-O'Toole 2-32.0 avg; P 58-Tahti 3-39.7 avg
Kick Returns: F 24-Pleasant 3-80, 44-Duncan 1-22, 10-Johnson 1-15; P 23-Dennis 4-118, 20-Simmons 1-14
Punt Returns: F 35-Bernstein 1-(-3); P none
Missed FG: none

Notes: Both teams are now 3-4 overall; both teams entered 1-1 in conference. Fullerton was ranked #17 and Palomar was ranked #10. 22-Fullerton-Talley caused the fumble that Poti recovered. An offisdes penalty negated an interception by 14-James; Halliday's 2nd FG came on the next play to make it 13-7. Palomar drove to the Fullerton 19 with under 4 mins left but the 16-yd loss on the bad snap and two 15-yd penalties, all on the same play, took them out of FG range. After the punt, Fullerton struck for the winning TD. Bergman replaced Lamb (shoulder injury) for Palomar's final drive and got the Comets to the Fullerton 36, but his 4th down pass was intercepted by Bernstein to clinch the win for Fullerton.

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