Payne completed 22 of 32 passes on the day without an interception, and RB Roderick Fields rushed for 90 yards on 19 carries for the Owls. Standout Quinton Ganther added 49 yards on 7 carries to become Citrus' all-time rushing leader, but played sparingly and sat out the entire second half.
The game began ominously for the Owls, who knew they needed a win in order to qualify for the playoffs. After driving to the Glendale 20 on their opening series, Payne and Ganther missed connections on a pitchout, and LB Josh Martin recovered for the Vaqueros. Glendale then went on a 12-play drive, highlighted by QB David Parker's 23-yard pass to TE Daniel Mazal, that got the ball to the Citrus 8. But the Citrus defense stiffened, stopping Parker for a loss on a rollout on 3rd down. That forced the Vaqueros to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Jeff Jacobs.
When Citrus got the ball back, it took just over a minute for them to take the lead. WR Daniel Ulrich caught a Payne pass for a modest gain, but when Ulrich shook off a couple of would-be tacklers, the play turned into a 54-yard touchdown reception. Luis Rosales' extra point made it 7-3 midway through the first quarter.
Glendale got the ball to midfield on its next possession, largely on a 17-yard pass from Parker to WR Tim Fields. However, the drive then stalled, forcing a punt. Rony Zelaya's kick rolled across the goal line for a touchback, leaving Citrus 80 yards from scoring another touchdown.
It took Citrus barely 2 minutes to cover the 80 yards. A 47-yard pass from Payne to Emmanuel Olayinka got the ball into Glendale territory. Then came a 19-yard run by Ganther, followed by a 7-yard run by R. Fields. On the next play, Payne found RB Marcus Nolan alone in the corner of the end zone and threw him the ball for a 9-yard TD pass, making it 14-3.
Citrus threatened to break the game open when, on the ensuing kickoff, they tried an onsides kick. Kicker Andrew Vzina recovered the ball, giving Citrus possession at their own 49. The Owls drove to the Glendale 20, but then Ganther fumbled, and Glendale LB Ryan Workman recovered it at the 22. Glendale then held the ball for over 7 minutes on a long drive to the Citrus 32, but came away empty when they were unable to convert a 4th and 6, turning the ball over on downs.
Citrus gave Glendale a chance to draw closer moments later. On a 4th and 7 at the Vaquero 43, Citrus lined up to punt. But the snap sailed high over punter Kirk McClain's head and bounced down the field. McClain finally covered the ball at the 27, where Glendale took over. But on the very next play, Glendale QB Adam Freeman, who had entered the game at the start of the second quarter, threw the ball into the end zone where it was intercepted by Citrus' DB Lawrence Guynes. Citrus tried to get another score in the final 1:10 of the half, but Payne's pass into the end zone on the half's final play was batted away, keeping it 14-3 at the break.
Glendale closed the gap to 14-9 on their first possession after halftime. A 7-play, 65-yard drive ended when RB Chris Berroud took the ball the final 10 yards into the end zone. A pair of runs by Berroud and a 10-yard scramble by QB Parker (who re-entered the lineup after halftime) had put Glendale in scoring position. The extra point was wide right, keeping the score 14-9.
Citrus answered back with a 10-play TD drive of their own to restore their double-digit lead. A 22-yard run by R. Fields got things started, and Payne's 7-yard scoring pass, his 3rd TD of the day, went to Olayinka with 7:15 left in the quarter. The Citrus defense then forced another Glendale punt, giving the ball back to Payne & company with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
And they held the ball for nearly the next 10 minutes. It was the long, backbreaking, clock-chewing type of drive that was exactly what the Owls needed to secure the win. Citrus held the ball for 9:53, running 17 plays and traveling 83 yards. The longest play was a 17-yard pass to Samora Goodson. The last play was a 12-yard TD pass to Ulrich, Payne's 4th TD pass of the day, and that made it 27-9 with just 10:15 left in the game.
Glendale tried to rally, but four plays later Citrus' Chris Campbell intercepted a Parker pass at the Owl 24. Citrus got one first down on a 10-yard run by R. Fields before punting, but managed to chew another three minutes-plus off the clock. When Glendale got the ball back, they were unable to move the ball and had to punt without gaining a first down, which allowed Citrus to get the ball back and run more time off the clock. By the time Glendale got the ball back again, there was less than 2 minutes on the clock and the celebration on the Citrus sideline had begun. As Glendale's return man Zachary Jones was being tackled, Citrus Coach Kevin Emerson was being doused with ice-water.
The celebration continued on the Citrus sideline as one coach after another got drenched. Meanwhile, the Vaqueros drove down the field, scoring on a 13-yard pass from Parker to Thomas Riley to make the score look a little better at 27-15. But by then less than a minute remained. Glendale tried an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff, but touched the ball after it went about 4 yards, giving the ball back to Citrus and allowing them to continue their celebration.
The Owls, who finished 6-4 in 2002 (including a forfeit win), will face either Mt. San Antonio, Grossmont or College of the Canyons in the first round of the playoffs.
Citrus entered 8-1, #5 in South. Glendale finishes 2-8. Citrus wraps up a playoff berth with the win. Ganther became Citrus' all-time rushing leader though he played sparingly, fumbled once and missed a pitchout (Payne was charged with the fumble) on another. Citrus' last TD drive was a 17-play, 83-yd march that took 9:53 off the clock and basically clinched the game. After Citrus' 2nd TD, kicker 78-Vzina tried an onsides kick and recovered the ball. Glendale tried an onsides kick after their last TD but touched the ball after about 4 yds, giving possession to Citrus. Parker played 1st, 3rd and 4th qtrs at QB for Glendale; Freeman played the 2nd. A bad punt snap resulted in a 30-yd loss for Citrus just before halftime, giving Glendale the ball at the Owl 27, but on the next play Freeman's pass was intercepted by Guynes. 54-Patin blocked the XPA for Glendale.