This game featured everything that is good, bad, ugly, interesting and ultimately fantastic about JC football. There was a lot of offense - the teams combined for 1151 yards of total offense - and lots of points. There were also plenty of turnovers (7) and penalties (nearly 300 yards combined). Emotions ran high and there were a couple of near-altercations. There were 7 lead changes, 5 in the fourth quarter. And the outcome of the game was in doubt until the ball hit the turf in the end zone with the clock at zeroes on the final play of the game.
On a sunny day at the beautiful new stadium on the campus of Yorba Linda HS, the two remaining unbeaten teams in the National Division squared off just after high-noon (12:30 pm, local time) for the right to stay unbeaten. And more than three hours later, by the narrowest of margins, Fullerton stood alone as the final National Division team without a loss.
Somehow, Fullerton (5-0) won despite six turnovers. Somehow, Riverside (5-1) lost despite 256 rushing yards from Denzel Foster. Each team amassed well over 500 yards of offense, and over 100 yards in penalties. Riverside attempted 6 field goals, which must have at least threatened the state record, making three of them. Fullerton used trick plays for a 2-point conversion and a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, both featuring back-up quarterback Dustin Stolarski. It seems the only person with any insight as to how this one would end was Fullerton Sports Information Director Phil Thurman, who strategically featured Longoria on the cover of the gameday program.
Riverside scored first when its outstanding kicker, Michael Canahai, booted a 43-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. Fullerton answered almost immediately with a touchdown, which came on a 1-yard run by power back Nick Norman two plays after a spectacular diving 42-yard catch by Longoria at the Riverside 2. Canahai just missed a 53-yard field goal on Riverside's next possession - it was long enough but wide right. However, the Tigers went in front in the final minute of the first quarter when Foster got his first two carries of the game and went for 18 yards on his first attempt and scored on a 26-yard run on his second. Canahai's extra points made it 10-7 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Riverside threatened to pull away, despite piling up the penalties. A lineman downfield penalty negated what would have been a touchdown two plays after an interception by Jonah Moi. (Actually, RCC also had 12 players on the field for the touchdown play, which went undetected by game officials). That led to another field goal by Canahai, this one from 42 yards out, that made it 13-7. The Tigers could have scored more but Cahanai's 46-yard field goal try later in the quarter was doomed by a low snap. Riverside scored a touchdown when Skyler Howard completed an 80-yard drive with a 13-yard scoring pass to Devon Blackmon midway through the quarter. But Fullerton blocked the extra point - Justin Marshall appeared to be the Hornet who got a hand on the ball - so despite dominating play for an extended period the Riverside lead was just 19-7.
Fullerton switched tactics on its next drive, going exclusively to the ground game, with rather spectacular results, covering 72 yards in just 4 plays that included a 26-yard scoring run by Lavorrie Johnson. Then on the conversion, holder Stolarski took the snap, stood up and ran through the line for a 2-point score, making it 19-15. Riverside drove to the Fullerton 4 on its next drive but had to settle for a 23-yard Canahai field goal with 56.6 seconds left that made it 22-15. But Fullerton answered with a quick drive of its own, highlighted by another 42-yard catch by Longoria, and got a 21-yard field goal from Casey Eyman as the half ended to make it 22-18 at the break.
In the third quarter, Fullerton threatened to take the lead and drove into Riverside territory three different times, but came away empty each time. The first threat ended when Raymond Ford intercepted an Escobar pass in the end zone. The second ended when Fullerton's Ryan Byrd fumbled just before the goal line, and Moi recovered for the Tigers in the end zone. The third drive reached the Riverside 34 before a holding penalty and three incomplete passes forced a Hornet punt.
Meanwhile, the Tigers never really threatened to score in the quarter. So the score stayed 22-18 Riverside as the third quarter ended. Riverside had the ball when the final quarter started, and drove to the Fullerton 19. But the Tigers came away empty when Canahai's 40-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with 13:35 to play. Though it had been a hard-played, entertaining game to that point, the fun was just about to start.
Fullerton drove deep into Riverside territory on its next drive, using a 21-yard pass from Escobar to Eli Pleasant to reach the Tiger 26. Three plays later the ball sat at the 29, and the Hornets sent Eyman out to try what would have been a 46-yard field goal. But holder Stolarski, after taking the snap, instead stood up and found a wide-open Longoria along the left sideline and threw him a 29-yard touchdown pass to give Fullerton its first lead of the second half. Eyman stayed on the field to kick the extra points, making it 25-22 with 9:57 left.
It took Riverside just over a minute to answer back, however, covering 67 yards in three plays to re-take the lead. Foster scored on a 29-yard run with 8:40 left to give the Tigers a 29-25 lead. But Fullerton answered right back with a 7-play, 74-yard drive of its own, highlighted by a 40-yard pass from Escobar to - you guessed it - Longoria. Norman scored his second short-yardage touchdown of the day with 5:15 left to give Fullerton a 32-29 lead.
But Riverside answered back quickly as well, with a 52-yard pass from Howard to fullback Tonieta HiFo that got the ball to the Hornet 31. Five plays later, Howard scored on a keeper with 3:04 left to give Riverside a 36-32 lead.
That, however, allowed Fullerton more than enough time to answer back with what proved to be the game-winning drive. A penalty on the kickoff return pinned the Hornets back at their own 8, but an 11-yard pass from Escobar to Kishon Sanders gained a first down. Then not one but two 15-yard penalties helped Fullerton move down the field - each call was fairly obvious and each sent a Fullerton player to the sidelines, injured (Johnson and Pleasant were the injured Hornets) - and into Riverside territory. Then with time starting to grow scarce, Escobar threw over the middle to Longoria, who stretched across the goal line for an 18-yard touchdown catch with 26 seconds left on the clock.
The game was hardly over, however, especially when Eyman's extra point try hit the left upright and missed, leaving it a 2-point game. Riverside started its next drive at its own 2 when return man Sam Boyd mishandled the kick and the ball rolled out at the Tiger 2. But Howard threw a 23-yard pass to Marquis Thompson and a 22-yard pass to Foster to get the ball to the Riverside 47 with 10.4 seconds left. Riverside also had one timeout left, not to mention a field goal kicker with a very strong let. But Fullerton's Jarrot Thomas broke through and sacked Howard for a 5-yard loss on the next play, also forcing the Tigers to use that final timeout. On the final play of the game, Howard lofted a Hail Mary pass that reached the end zone in the vicinity of two RCC receivers and several Hornet defenders, but the ball fell to the turf incomplete.
To say the least, there were a great many statistics in this game. For Fullerton, Escobar completed 24 of 34 passes for 388 yards and a touchdown, though he also had 3 interceptions. Overall, the Hornets had 417 passing yards including Stolarski's touchdown pass on the fake field goal attempt. Longoria had 8 catches for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game-winner. Pleasant had 10 catches for 127 yards. Johnson led the Hornets with 93 yards on 20 carries. Byrd had 9 carries for 65 yards but did not return after the second of his two fumbles.
For Riverside, Howard completed 22 of 34 passes for 299 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But the real standout was the super-speedy Foster, who rushed for an astounding 256 yards on just 25 carries (that's an average of more than 10 yards per carry!) and 2 touchdowns. Ten different receivers caught passes for the Tigers, with Boyd tallying the most catches (7 for 44 yards) but QB-turned-TE Tyler Shreve gaining the most yards (3 catches for 54 yards). On defense, Moi had an interception and a fumble recovery, John Taylor had a fumble recovery and a sack, and Jeremiah Mitchell had a sack and also deflected the pass that Moi intercepted.
With the win, Fullerton is the last National Division team to stay unbeaten, a status the Hornets will put on the line next week when they travel to take on Saddleback. Riverside looks to return to the win column as it travels to Torrance to take on El Camino.
Fullerton Hornets 38, Riverside Tigers 36
Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 12:30 pm - Shapell Stadium (Yorba Linda HS)
R - FG Canahai 43 yds 6:57 (0-3)
F - Norman 1 yd run (Eyman kick) 4:25 (7-3)
R - Foster 26 yd run (Canahai kick) 0:50.5 (7-10)
R - FG Canahai 42 yds 14:15 (7-13)
R - Blackmon 13 yd pass from Howard (kick blocked) 6:54 (7-19)
F - Johnson 26 yd run (Stolarski run) 5:18 (15-19)
R - FG Canahai 23 yds 0:56.6 (15-22)
F - FG Eyman 21 yds 0:00 (18-22)
F - Longoria 29 yd pass from Stolarski (Eyman kick) 9:57 (25-22)
R - Foster 29 yd run (Canahai kick) 8:40 (25-29)
F - Norman 1 yd run (Eyman kick) 5:15 (32-29)
R - Howard 1 yd run (Canahai kick) 3:04 (32-36)
F - Longoria 18 yd pass from Escobar (kick hit left post) 0:26.0 (38-36)
First Downs: Fullerton 31 (8 rush, 18 pass, 5 penalty), Riverside 31 (14 rush, 13 pass, 4 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Fullerton 42-142, Riverside 47-293
Passing Yds: Fullerton 417, Riverside 299
Comp-Att-Int: Fullerton 25-36-3, Riverside 22-34-1
Return Yds: Fullerton 118, Riverside 93
Sacks-Yds: Fullerton 2-9, Riverside 2-17
Fumbles-Lost: Fullerton 4-3, Riverside 1-0
Penalties-Yds: Fullerton 13-103, Riverside 17-183
Time of Possession: Fullerton 30:20, Riverside 29:40
Rushing: F 5-Johnson 20-93, 27-Byrd 9-65, 49-Wesley 3-15, 34-Norman 4-6, 30-Douglas 1-4, 22-Onovughe 1-1, 17-Escobar 3-(-18), team 1-(-14); R 8-Foster 25-256, 29-Yarbrough 10-19, 6-S.Howard 12-18
Passing: F 17-Escobar 24-34-3-388, 1 TD; 15-Stolarski 1-1-0-29, 1 TD; team 0-1-0-0; R 6-S.Howard 22-34-1-299, 1 TD
Receiving: F 2-Pleasant 10-127, 11-Longoria 8-219, 1-Marenco 3-35, 82-Sanders 2-15, 23-Branton 1-12, 46-Main 1-9; R 7-Boyd 6-44, 13-Shreve 3-54, 1-Blackmon 3-42, 10-Torrance 3-18, 18-Thompson 2-34, 44-HiFo 1-52, 8-Foster 1-22, 88-Mobley 1-15, 29-Yarbrough 1-10, 9-Moore 1-8
Interceptions-Ret Yds: F 13-Bernstein 1-0; R 4-Taylor 1-23, 24-Ford 1-0, 43-Moi 1-0
Fumble Rec: F none; R 43-Moi 1-0, 92-J.Taylor 1-0, 98-Fa'imalo 1-0
Sacks-Yds: F 58-Thomas 1-5, 32-Owens 1-4; R 92-J.Taylor 1-15, 99-Mitchell 1-2
Punters: F 59-Martinez 3-44.7 avg; R 16-Johnston 3-33.7 avg
Kick Returns: F 49-Wesley 3-64, 5-Johnson 2-41, 1-Marenco 1-21; R 7-Boyd 4-68
Punt Returns: F none; R 17-Biggers 1-2
Missed FG: F none; R 39-Canahai 53 yds (wr), 46 yds (wl), 40 yds (wl)
Notes: Showdown! Riverside entered 5-0, #1-National, #2 in the nation (JCFootball.com). Fullerton entered 4-0, #2-National, #7 in the nation. And what a game it was! Riverside's 1st TD came 2 plays after Fa'imalo's fumble recovery. Riverside's 2nd FG came after it had a TD negated by a lineman downfield penalty. 74-Marshall appeared to block the XPA for Fullerton after Riverside's 2nd TD. Stolarski's 2-pt conversion came on a fake kick play. Fullerton drove deep into Riverside territory twice in the 3rd but came away empty after Ford's interception and Moi's fumble recovery, both in the end zone. Stolarski's TD pass came on a fake field goal play. Riverside had 2 15-yd penalties on Fullerton's game-winning drive. Riverside had one last chance and reached the RCC 47 but couldn't quite complete a Hail Mary pass on the last play.