El Camino Escapes Fullerton With Win

Unbeaten El Camino rallied from a 12-point deficit with two touchdowns in the game's final 4 minutes, then held on as Fullerton's last-second field goal attempt sailed wide to run their record to 7-0 (5-0 in the Mission Conference) in a wild game at Fullerton October 23rd. QB Don Poole passed for 264 yards, with 145 of those going to Laferrell Payne, and Carl G-Lyles scored three touchdowns including the game-winner with 1:12 to play for the Warriors.

But from the very beginning, it was a struggle for El Camino to get past a determined Fullerton squad.  On El Camino's first play from scrimmage, a bad snap from center eluded Poole and bounced around in the Warrior backfield.  In came Fullerton's Joel Ruvalcaba, who picked up the rolling ball and carried it into the end zone to give the Hornets a lead 16 seconds into the game.

In fact, for most of the first half it looked like the game would be dominated by the defenses.  El Camino's next possession ended with an interception by Dontrell Mitchell, but Fullerton then managed just 3 yards before being forced to punt.  Then El Camino got a 14-yard run from J.R. Moala, but soon after that faced a 4th and 10 and also had to punt.

But that's when El Camino got their first break.  Matt Dragich's punt landed near Mitchell at the Fullerton 14.  However, when Mitchell tried to lunge for the catch, he didn't come up with the ball.  El Camino's Keti Taufoou did though, giving the Warriors the ball at the 16.  Three plays later, G-Lyles powered in from the 3 to even the score 7-7.

Another turnover led to El Camino's next score.  Fullerton starting QB Justin Turner's pass was intercepted by Nate Ness near midfield.  Ness then weaved through most of the entire Hornet offense for an apparent touchdown, but that score was negated by a penalty on the runback, giving El Camino the ball at the Hornet 48.  A 12-yard pass from Poole to Mike Sanford, plus a 15-yard penalty on the Hornets, got the Warriors into scoring position.  Though they were unable to get the touchdown, Branden Jones' 34-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first quarter gave El Camino a 10-7 lead.

El Camino pushed their lead to 16-7 early in the second quarter on a quick-strike play.  Fullerton's David Kline punted through the end zone, giving the Warriors the ball at the 20.  On the very next play, Poole connected with Payne on a pass over the middle that became an 80-yard TD pass when Payne outran the Hornet secondary.  The extra point was blocked by Fullerton's Everett Reid, but the Warriors had what looked like a large 9-point lead.  Fullerton drove to midfield on their next possession, but were then forced to punt, and El Camino took over at their own 15.

Then things got a little strange.  El Camino soon faced a 4th and 9 at their own 16 and went back to punt.  But on the play, Fullerton's Tyler Dugan broke through along the right side of the line, blocked the punt and fell on the ball in the end zone for an apparent touchdown.  But wait, there was a flag on the field; Fullerton was off-sides, negating the play.  So El Camino again lined up to punt (it was now 4th and 4).  The snap was low, and in came Fullerton's Cameron Carmona, who blocked the kick!  And Fullerton's Steven Randolph fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.  And there were no penalties on this one!

When El Camino got the ball back after the ensuing kickoff, it nearly got a lot worse for the Warriors as a Poole pass bounced off the fingertips of Fullerton's Paul Ruggio, who would have had a clear path to the end zone had he made the interception.  Having avoided that disaster, they drove to midfield, in large part on passes by Poole to Payne and Sanford.  But then they faced a 4th and 8 at their own 47, and were again forced to punt though only a few seconds remained in the half.  And special-teams trouble struck again as the snap was again low and bounced past punter Dragich, who finally fell on the ball back at the El Camino 23.  Just 15 seconds remained in the half, but that was long enough for Fullerton's backup QB Casey Whieldon (who had entered the game earlier in the second quarter) to pass to TE Jason Vandiver for a 23-yard TD, giving Fullerton a surprising 21-16 lead at the half.

When the second half started, the defenses again asserted their dominance.  Fullerton took the kickoff and drove to the 23 but Taufoou came up with a big stop on 4th down for El Camino to halt the Hornet possession.  El Camino ran three plays and punted, but at least that went smoothly with new long-snapper Moala handling things.  Fullerton got the ball near midfield, but was unable to take advantage and ended up punting as well.  El Camino trailed 21-16 but had the ball back at its own 9-yard line.

Then trouble struck again for the Warriors as RB Damian Bryant fumbled and Randolph recovered for Fullerton at the 10-yard line.  On the next play, Fullerton's Alfred Guidry burst around the right side for a 10-yard TD run, putting the home squad ahead, 28-16.

El Camino answered back with one thing the game hadn't featured yet:  a long, time-consuming drive.  Starting from their own 19, the Warriors ran 14 plays and covered the 81 yards in 7:31, giving their defense a breather and gaining some rhythm on offense.  And yet, the drive only continued because of a Fullerton mistake; early on, El Camino punted on 4th and 4 but Fullerton was off-sides on the play, giving El Camino a first down and the ball back.  A 15-yard run by Brian Flowers got the ball to midfield and was the longest play of the drive.  G-Lyles scored his second TD of the afternoon, this one from 2 yards out, with 8 seconds left in the third quarter to cut the Fullerton lead to 28-23.

Then Fullerton struck back quickly.  On their next play from scrimmage, Guidry took a handoff and headed towards his left.  There was a good-sized opening, and he burst through it before the defense could respond.  And as he got to the sideline, he seemed to get faster and pull away from anyone chasing him.  Down the sideline he went, entering the end zone untouched for an electrifying 83-yard TD run as the quarter ended.  That made it 35-23 in favor of Fullerton, but it would also be the Hornets' final points of the afternoon.

For much of the fourth quarter, however, it looked like the 35 points would be enough for Fullerton.  El Camino's next drive ended when Moala fumbled, and Ruvalcaba recovered for the Hornets.  After a Fullerton punt, El Camino got a first down but ended up having to punt after QB sacks by Jagger Thorn and Dillon Bedard.  That gave Fullerton the ball at the El Camino 40 with just over 7 minutes left and holding a 12-point lead.  All they had to do was run out the clock, and they would have the win.

But moments later, that play went awry when RB Rafael Rice fumbled while trying to fight for a few extra yards, and El Camino's Moses Manu recovered at the 32.  A 20-yard pass from Poole to Payne got the ball near midfield, and that combination nearly produced a touchdown on the next play only to have Randolph knock the ball away on a long pass to save the Hornets.  But the drive continued with Poole throwing a 21-yard pass to Sanford, who took a monster hit on the play but held onto the ball.  Then came a 29-yard pass to Payne who was pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line.  After a 5-yard false start penalty, Flowers powered through for a 6-yard TD run to close the margin to 35-30 with 3:52 to play.

Since El Camino had no timeouts left, they decided to try an onsides kick.  And the strategy worked as ECC's Sami Siddiqui came up with the ball at the Warrior 47 (the first of two huge plays he would make on special teams in the final minutes).  A 6-yard run by Flowers helped get ECC a first down, and 9-yard pass to William Boyd moved the ball to the Hornet 34.  A 12-yard Poole pass to Sanford moved the Warriors to the 22.  And then a Poole pass to Haley got El Camino to the 1-yard line.  Now it was Fullerton that needed a timeout, but that didn't stop El Camino as G-Lyles plowed through the line and into the end zone for his third score of the day to give the Warriors a 36-35 lead with 1:12 left.

Poole was stopped on the 2-point conversion try, keeping the lead at a single point.  And on the ensuing kickoff, Fullerton's Trimble nearly broke through for a long return, perhaps even a touchdown, but was stopped by the last man in his path, ECC's Sami Siddiqui.  That put the ball at the Hornet 32; Fullerton had just over a minute and one time out at its disposal.  Starting QB Turner, idle since the second quarter, came out to lead the Hornets on one last drive.

It started with a run by Guidry, but he was stopped after a 7-yard gain.  After a spike of the ball to stop the clock, Turner then came up with the big play Fullerton needed:  a 45-yard pass to Darryl Parker that got the ball to the El Camino 16, well within field goal range.  The next play was an incomplete pass, but then came El Camino's big play; on second down Turner again went back to throw but was sacked by ECC's Rick Talanoa for an 11-yard loss.  After the play, Turner quickly lined up the offense and spiked the ball to stop the clock, but that made it 4th down at the 27 with 5 seconds left.  The Hornets had little choice but to send out Mauricio Garcia to try a long field goal.  But the kick was well wide, allowing El Camino to hold on for the win.

It was quite a game, with a great many standout performances.  For El Camino, Poole came back from a staggering start to complete 18 of 33 passes for 264 yards in leading the Warrior comeback.  Payne had a marvelous day with 6 catches for 145 yards and a score.  Flowers led El Camino with 93 yards rushing on 15 carries and a TD.  Short-yardage specialist G-Lyles came through with 3 TDs while running behind guard-turned-tight end-turned 290-pound fullback Sete Aulai.  And on defense, Taufoou was a force all day and recovered a fumble.  Talanoa came up with the biggest play with his clutch sack, and Ness had a nice interception.  And on special teams, Siddiqui came up with two huge plays in the last four minutes.

For Fullerton, it was a strange day on offense.  All three of their offensive touchdowns came on 1-play drives.  Two of those came from Guidry, who finished with a game-high 140 yards rushing on just 10 carries.  Rice had 80 yards on 18 carries.  Vandiver led Hornet receivers with 4 catches for 57 yards including a TD pass from Whieldon.  Among the standouts on defense were Ruvalcaba, with 2 fumble recoveries, and Randolph; each scored a TD as well. 

El Camino will host Pasadena next week.  And it doesn't get any easier for Fullerton, who will host Saddleback in the first game of the Mission Bash doubleheader at Cerritos next Saturday at noon.

Scoring Summary:

1st Quarter:
F – Ruvalcaba 12 yd fumble return (M.Garcia kick) 14:44 -- 0-7
EC – G-Lyles 3 yd run (Jones kick) 5:30 -- 7-7
EC – FG Jones 34 yds 0:17 -- 10-7                               

2nd Quarter:
EC – Payne 80 yd pass from Poole (kick blocked) 10:21 -- 16-7
F – Randolph recovered blocked punt in end zone (M.Garcia kick) 4:39 -- 16-14
F – Vandiver 23 yd pass from Whieldon (M.Garcia kick) 0:11 -- 16-21 

3rd Quarter:
F – Guidry 10 yd run (M.Garcia kick) 7:39 -- 16-28
EC – G-Lyles 2 yd run (Jones kick) 0:08 -- 23-28
F – Guidry 83 yd run (M.Garcia kick) 0:00 -- 23-35                                         

4th Quarter:
EC – Flowers 6 yd run (Jones kick) 3:52 -- 30-35
EC – G-Lyles 1 yd run (run failed) 1:12 -- 36-35 

Team Statistics: Fullerton El Camino
First Downs 13 (7 run; 4 pass; 2 pen) 23 (10 run; 10 pass; 3 pen)
Rushes – Yards 33-218 49-128
Passing Yards 108 264
Comp - Att – Int 7-19-1 18-33-1
Return Yards 145 116
Sacks – Yards 5-28 1-11
Fumbles – Lost 2-2 4-3
Penalties – Yards 7-58 11-86
Time of Possession 23:41 36:19

Individual Statistics:

Rushing: F:  1-Guidry 10-140, 2-Rice 18-80, 28-Reid 2-6, 32-Otto 1-(-1), 3-Turner 2-(-7) EC:  4-Flowers 15-93, 35-Maola 8-35, 6-Bryant 7-23, 37-G-Lyles 6-20, 3-Poole 9-(-8), team 4-(-45)

Passing: F:  3-Turner 4-9-1-76; 14-C.Whieldon 3-8-0-32, 1 TD; team 0-2-0-0 EC:  3-Poole 18-33-1-264, 1 TD

Receiving: F:  87-Vandiver 4-57, 10-Parker 1-45, 34-Gutierrez 1-3, 86-Nottingham 1-3 EC:  18-Payne 6-145, 17-Sanford 5-56, 2-Haley 4-35, 5-Boyd 3-28

Int-Ret Yds: F:  23-Mitchell 1-0 EC:  32-Ness 1-16         

Sacks-Yds: F:  33-Thorn 2-13, 22-Bedard 1-8, 54-Janke 1-4, 42-Tabatabai 1-3 EC:  91-Talanoa 1-11

Fum Rec: F:  40-Ruvalcaba 2, 6-Randolph EC:  10-Taufoou, 85-Mann

Punters: F:  46-Kline 5-36.0 avg EC:  13-Dragich 3-35.3 avg + 1 blocked

Kick Ret: F:  38-Trimble 4-85, 23-Mitchell 2-34 EC:  5-Boyd 2-39, 1-Charles 2-37, 4-Flowers 1-15, 35-Moala 1-8

Punt Ret: F:  23-Mitchell 2-9 EC:  2-Haley 1-1

Missed FG: F:  62-M.Garcia 45 (wide left) EC:  none

Notes: El Camino entered 6-0, #3 in South; Fullerton entered 5-1, #7 in South.  84-Reid blocked the XPA for FC.  25-Dugan blocked a punt and recovered it for a TD only to have a penalty negate the play; 24-Carmona blocked the punt on the replay and Randolph recovered for the TD.  Ness originally returned the int. for a TD but the run was shortened by penalty.  41-Siddiqui recovered an onsides kick for ECC after their 4th TD; he also made a saving tackle on Trimble after their 5th TD.  Turner started at QB for FC and re-entered for the final series.  Talanoa's sack came on 2nd down in final series, forcing FC to spike and then try the long (unsuccessful) field goal with 4 secs left.


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