El Camino Over Mt. SAC in Nailbiter

Boo Jackson threw for 3 touchdowns and his backup, Jimmy Coy, threw for another as El Camino (3-1) survived a late rally by host Mt. San Antonio (2-2) and held on for a 31-26 win Saturday afternoon in Walnut.

The game had a quarterback who passed for nearly 400 yards, another who twice returned from a devastating hit (once to throw a touchdown pass on the next play), one touchdown on a fingertip catch and another when the ball bounced off the hands of one receiver and to a teammate waiting in the end zone, a blocked punt, over 800 yards of offense and lots of penalties.  There was also a fumble, a lateral and a touchdown -- in that order – on the same play.  And the outcome was very much in doubt until the final horn sounded.

In other words, it was what has become the norm for a game between El Camino and Mt. SAC.  A year after three overtimes were needed to determine the winner, this year's game required no overtime but needed all 3600 seconds of regulation time to allow one team to escape with the victory.  And El Camino got the win only after Kevin Craft's final pass of the day sailed out of the end zone on the final play of the game after time had expired.

The game began in a steady rain that became heavier as the first quarter progressed and continued throughout the first half.  That undoubtedly contributed to some mishandling of the football, particularly when it came to long snaps, punts and conversion attempts.  The rain stopped just before halftime, however, and thankfully the downpour of penalty flags also slowed in the second half after the teams combined for two dozen penalties in the first half.

El Camino got on the board first when Boo Jackson found receiver Greg Moore all alone along the left sideline and threw him a 55-yard touchdown pass 4:48 into the game.  After the Mt. SAC defender fell on the slippery grass, Moore had no Mountie within 30 yards when he hauled in the catch and carried the ball over the goal line.  However, on the conversion attempt, El Camino had significant problems with the snap & hold, the result being that James Cullen had to stop and start again before kicking the ball.  His kick went about 10 yards, but Mt. SAC was flagged for roughing the kicker (giving a preview of things to come:  trouble with long snaps and a lot of penalties).  After the penalty, El Camino elected to try for a two-point conversion but when Ken Ashley was stopped short of the goal line the Warrior lead remained 6-0.

Mt. SAC then put together an 11-play drive that brought the Mounties to the Warrior 3.  But on the next play, Mt. SAC quarterback Kevin Craft lost control of the wet ball, and El Camino's David De Cordova grabbed it in midair and returned it 30 yards to the El Camino 33. 

And El Camino not only put together a strong drive of its own, it added to its lead on a most bizarre play.  After driving to the Mt. SAC 3, the Warriors had a 1st and goal.  Jackson, however, fumbled the snap.  The ball went to Patrick Hill, who then tossed the ball backwards to Ashley, who scored the touchdown.  That made it 12-0.  On the conversion, the holder dropped the snap, however, and this time there wasn’t even a kick.  So it remained 12-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Mt. SAC got on the board on its next possession when Craft scored from 5 yards out on a quarterback draw to cap a 9-play, 63-yard drive.  And after an El Camino punt, Mt. SAC got an 80-yard pass play when Craft hit Aiona Key for a short gain and Key broke a tackle and sped down the field to the El Camino 12.  Only a saving tackle by Lamar Chapman prevented the touchdown, and that turned out to be a significant play as the Mt. SAC offense stalled at the Warrior 9 and the Mounties had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Jeremy Gener that made it 12-10.  

Neither team scored again in the first half.  At the break, the teams had combined for 22 points and 24 penalties.

The rain stopped and the sun came out in time for the third quarter, and the level of play improved along with the weather.  El Camino took the kickoff and immediately got excellent field position when return man Jonathan Price burst through the coverage and returned the kickoff 80 yards to the Mt. SAC 22.  The drive stalled when Mt. SAC's Bernard Afutiti delivered a pulverizing hit on Jackson for a 7-yard sack.  But Jackson managed to get up from that hit, and not only stayed in the game but delivered a perfect pass into the right corner of the end zone on the next play, connecting with Verran Tucker for a 26-yard score to make it 18-10.  Again, the extra point was missed – Cullen seemed to slip on his approach and the kick went into the line – keeping El Camino ahead by 8 points.

Mt. SAC cut into that lead when it got the ball, putting together an 11-play drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Gener that closed the gap to five points at 18-13.  The Mounties had reached the Warrior 3 on the drive, but a pass knockdown by Chapman and a holding penalty halted the march and forced the field goal.

And El Camino extended its lead on its next possession thanks to a marvelous catch and run by receiver Corey Surrency.  The 6-4 sophomore took a short pass from Jackson and accelerated seemingly through the entire Mt. SAC defense, speeding between defenders without being touched en route to a 46-yard touchdown play.  After the play, however, Surrency was not only flagged for excessive celebration, but ejected from the game for taunting.  Curiously, Mt. SAC elected to have the penalty marched off on the kickoff, which allowed Cullen to kick the extra point from the usual distance.  For the only time all afternoon, the Warriors got the extra point as Cullen’s kick was perfect, giving them an 12-point lead at 25-13.

Mt. SAC closed the margin back to five points when Matt Austin extended and made an amazing fingertip catch of a Craft pass for a 24-yard touchdown play on the Mounties’ next possession.  But El Camino pushed its lead back to 11 on an equally amazing – if a bit more fortunate – catch when backup quarterback Jimmy Coy’s pass bounced off the fingertips of Price and into the waiting hands of Harry Deberry, who was standing in the end zone.  Coy had replaced Jackson at quarterback after the starter had received another devastating hit earlier on the drive.  Again, problems with the snap & hold on the extra point prevented the conversion.  Worse yet, the kicker Cullen in the scramble for the loose ball in the backfield.

Mt. SAC punted the next time it got the ball, and El Camino moved to their own 43 with under 8 minutes left and appeared ready to put the game away with a punt to pin the Mounties deep in their own end.  But the punt snap was low and bounced past punter Brandon Lamers, who finally picked up the ball well behind the line and tried to get a kick away.  The kick had no chance, however, as Mt. SAC’s Aiona Key was there to block it.  The ball went all the way to the El Camino 12, and on the very next play Craft threw a 12-yard scoring pass to William Woods to make it 31-26 with 7:25 remaining.  Even after the two-point conversion failed when El Camino’s Cory Lattimore knocked away a Craft pass, the Mounties were suddenly very much back in the game.

Back in the game as well was Jackson, who returned for El Camino on the next possession.  And when he threw a 49-yard pass to Tucker to get the ball deep in Mt. SAC territory, it looked like the Warriors were once again on the verge of putting the game away.  But two plays later, El Camino’s Emmanuel Butler fumbled, and Mt. SAC’s Tyrell Irvin recovered with 4:25 remaining.

Mt. SAC’s next drive started out well enough, with the Mounties reaching the El Camino 39.  But then a bad shotgun snap sailed past Craft.  Craig Williams recovered for Mt. SAC, but it was a 26-yard loss on the play.  Three plays later, the Mounties turned the ball over after an incomplete pass on 4th and 26 from the 23 with 1:52 left.

El Camino, however, was unable to run out the clock or score again.  And for a moment it looked like Mt. SAC had caused yet another fumble when the ball popped loose, Andrew Swink grabbed it and headed towards midfield.  That play was cancelled out by an offsides penalty, but moments later the Mounties got the ball back on downs at the 21 with 54 seconds left.

Needing a touchdown to win, the Mounties moved quickly down the field.  An 8-yard pass by Craft to Austin and an 11-yard pass to Lester Thomas got the ball to the 45.  Then Craft threw a 23-yard pass to Eunique Williams to get to the El Camino 32.  An offsides penalty on El Camino and a 7-yard scramble by Craft got the ball to the 20.  But after an incomplete pass, just 4 seconds remained.

On the last play, Craft threw towards the back of the end zone, but the ball sailed over the end line, allowing El Camino to escape with the win.

For the Warriors, Jackson had a truly courageous performance, coming back twice from extraordinary hits to continue to lead his team.  He finished 10 of 13 passing for 263 yards, averaging over 20 yards per pass attempt, and threw for 3 touchdowns.  Tucker led all receivers with 114 yards receiving, which came on just 3 catches.  Hill led all rushers with 65 yards on 9 carries, and also had a very important pitchout.

For Mt. SAC, Craft finished 26 of 46 for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns passing, and also ran for a score.  Thomas led all receivers with 8 catches, and gained 98 yards on the day.  Irvin had a sack and a fumble recovery on defense, and Afutiti was a visible presence all afternoon.

With the win, El Camino improves to 3-1 and returns home next week to host Saddleback.  Mt. SAC falls to 2-2 and will host Orange Coast next Saturday.

El Camino Warriors 31
Mt. San Antonio Mounties 26

Saturday, September 22, 2007 – 1 pm – Hilmer-Lodge Stadium – Walnut
Mission Conference – Crossover Game

1st Quarter:    
E – Moore 55 yd pass from Jackson (run failed) 10:12 (6-0)
E – Ashley 3 yd run (run failed – bad snap on kick attempt) 0:12 (12-0)

2nd Quarter:   
M – Craft 5 yd run (Gener kick) 11:26 (12-7)
M – FG Gener 26 yds 6:33 (12-10)

3rd Quarter:   
E – Tucker 26 yd pass from Jackson (kick blocked) 13:02 (18-10)
M – FG Gener 32 yds 7:50 (18-13)
E – Surrency 46 yd pass from Jackson (Cullen kick) 4:30 (25-13)
M – Austin 24 yd pass from Craft (Gener kick) 2:14 (25-20)

4th Quarter:
E – Deberry 8 yd pass from Coy (run failed) 13:21 (31-20)
M – Woods 12 yd pass from Craft (pass failed) 7:25 (31-26)

Team Statistics:
First Downs:  Mt. SAC 25 (1 rush, 18 pass, 6 penalty), El Camino 16 (6 rush, 8 pass, 2 penalty)
Rushes-Yds:  Mt. SAC 28-32, El Camino 27-126
Passing Yds:  Mt. SAC 395, El Camino 271
Comp-Att-Int:  Mt. SAC 26-46-0, El Camino 11-14-0
Return Yds:  Mt. SAC 114, El Camino 178
Sacks-Yds:  Mt. SAC 2-12,  El Camino 2-11
Fumbles-Lost:  Mt. SAC 5-1, El Camino 3-1
Penalties-Yds:  Mt. SAC 18-164, El Camino 19-157
Time of Possession:  Mt. SAC 32:38, El Camino 27:22

Individual Statistics:
Rushing:  Mt. SAC 32-Woods 6-24, 2-Craft 9-24, 36-C.Williams 9-23, 1-Turner 2-3, team 2-(-42);
El Camino 22-HIll 9-65, 4-Francis 8-31, 23-Ashley 10-30, 9-Pressley 4-12, 16-Coy 1-1, 8-Jackson 4-(-6), 33-Butler 1-(-7)
Passing:   Mt. SAC 2-Craft 26-46-0-395, 2 TDs; El Camino 8-Jackson 10-13-0-263, 3 TDs; 16-Coy 1-1-0-8, 1 TD
Receiving:   Mt. SAC 5-Thomas 8-98, 29-E.Williams 5-74, 6-Austin 5-58, 11-Key 2-90, 1-Turner 2-18, 10-Walker 2-18, 88-Carrillo 1-27, 32-Woods 1-12; El Camino 5-Tucker 3-114, 7-Deberry 3-30, 4-Francis 2-17, 83-Moore 1-55, 1-Surrency 1-46, 22-Hill 1-9
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds:  Mt. SAC 45-Irvin 1-6; El Camino 99-DeCordova 1-30
Sacks-Yds:  Mt. SAC 20-Afutiti 1-7, 45-Irvin 1-5; El Camino 30-Thompson 1-7, 92-Gnodle 1-4
Punters:   Mt. SAC 17-Parkhouse 3-36.3 avg; El Camino 86-Lamers 2-38.0 avg + 1 blk
Kick Returns:  Mt. SAC 34-Garcia 3-44, 5-Thomas 1-18, 3-M.Williams 1-15;
El Camino 80-Price 2-86, 83-Moore 2-41, 34-Areyan 1-17
Punt Returns:  Mt. SAC 11-Key 1-31, 25-Gaisie 1-0; El Camino 80-Price 3-4
Ejection:  El Camino 1-Surrency 4:30 left in 3rd (taunting)
Notes:  Both teams entered 2-1.  El Camino was ranked #4 in the South (COA) and #5 in the nation (JCGW).  Mt. SAC was ranked #7 in the South and #16 in the nation.  The first half was played in a rain that ranged from steady to heavy.  It was a wild game!  On El Camino’s 1st TD, a bad snap/hold doomed El Camino's first try at an extra point but a roughing the kicker penalty gave them another chance.  However, Ashley was stopped short of the goal line on the 2-point try.  El Camino's 2nd TD came on a play on which QB Jackson fumbled, Hill got the loose ball and lateralled to Ashley, who scored.  The holder dropped the snap on the XPA on that one.  El Camino's 3rd TD came one play after Jackson was absolutely drilled by Afutiti; somehow he got up and threw the TD pass on the next play.  On the extra point, Cullen’s kick was low and into the line.  On El Camino’s 4th TD, Surrency was ejected for excessive celebration/taunting after his magnificent touchdown run.  Then  on the XPA, after another problem with the snap/hold, Cullen was injured during the scramble for the ball in the backfield.  Jackson took another pulverizing shot late in the 3rd; Coy replaced him for two series, the first of which ended with El Camino’s final touchdown.  On that play, Coy's pass bounced off the fingertips of Price and into the hands of Deberry who was already in the end zone.  Mt. SAC’s final touchdown came one play after the blocked punt by Key following yet another bad ElCo long snap.  Mt. SAC's 19-Swink appeared to recover a fumble and return it to midfield with just over a minute left but an offsides penalty wiped out that play.  Still, Mt. SAC had one last chance to win in the final minute and reached the El Camino 20 with 4 seconds left but Craft's last-chance pass was out of the back of the end zone.

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