AVC (5-4, 5-1) led most of the night, but a pair of field goals by Steven Sandoval, the second after a blocked punt by Franky Anaya, lifted the Brahmas (7-2, 6-0) to the victory.
AVC scored the game's first two touchdowns in the first half of the first quarter, and led all the way until Sandoval's game-tying field goal with 5:41 left in the game. Then, after the Pierce defense forced an AVC punt, Anaya broke in from the left side of the defensive line and blocked Armando Quintero's punt, giving Pierce the ball at the AVC 26 with 3:58 left. The Brahmas drove inside the AVC 10, and Sandoval booted the game-winning field goal from 23 yards out with exactly a minute left to give Pierce its first lead of the night at 44-41.
But, fittingly for what this game was all evening, that 3-point lead was hardly safe. Ronald McLaughlin returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to the Pierce 49, giving AVC a legitimate chance to at least tie the game if not take the lead. But the Pierce defense held firm, forcing three incomplete passes after AVC quarterback Josh Firm scrambled for 7 yards on first down, turning the ball back over with 27.5 seconds left and finally clinching the win for Pierce.
There was a fairly large, partisan crowd at John Shepard Stadium, on hand to cheer Pierce to its first playoff berth. But early on it was the hardy band of AVC supporters on the visitors' side who had reason to cheer. Firm scored the game's first touchdown on a 1-yard run to cap an 8-play drive just 3:33 into the game. Pierce nearly answered with an apparent touchdown by Coleman Edmond on the ensuing kickoff, but a penalty negated the score and Pierce came away empty on the drive. Then AVC drove down the field and scored a second touchdown on Kene Martin's 1-yard run exactly halfway through the first quarter.
Pierce got another superb kickoff return from Edmond on the ensuing kickoff, a 59-yarder to the AVC 28. Moments later, Edmond got his touchdown on an 8-yard scoring pass from Matt Wabby to get the Brahmas on the board. But AVC answered back with another touchdown, this one on a 15-yard toss from Firm to Taveon Burke that made it 19-7.
Both offenses seemingly scored at will in the second quarter. Pierce cut the margin to 19-14 on a 3-yard scoring run by Carlos King in the first minute of the quarter. But AVC got a 4-yard scoring run from Martin to make it 25-14 less than five minutes later. One minute after that, a 31-yard field goal by Sandoval cut AVC's lead to 25-17. AVC scored on a drive kept alive on a defensive holding penalty when Firm threw another touchdown pass to Burke, this one from 7 yards out, to give the Marauders a 15-point lead at 32-17. But Pierce got another touchdown when Nate Ingram made a sensational, one-handed catch of a Wabby pass in the back of the end zone in the final minute of the quarter to make it 32-24 at the half.
The scoring slowed somewhat in the third quarter, but Pierce nearly tied the game when King scored his second touchdown of the game with 5:23 left in the period. But King was stopped short on the attempted 2-point conversion, so AVC still maintained a 2-point lead at 32-30. Then AVC drove into Pierce territory, reaching the Brahma 32 at one point before facing 4th and 9 from the 33. On the next play came what appeared for a while to be the pivotal play of the game.
Firm threw a long pass towards the goal line on 4th down, but Pierce's Patrick Allen intercepted the pass at the 4. Perhaps he should have batted the ball down, since it was 4th down, rather than making the catch, though that could have allowed an AVC receiver to make the catch on the deflection. Still, Pierce had the ball deep in its own territory, trailing by just two points with 1:37 left in the third quarter.
One play later, Pierce trailed by 4 points when Chasman Davis broke through the line and, thanks to a broken play, found Wabby still with the ball in his own end zone and tackled him. The safety made it 34-30. Then, Tramel Joiner returned the ensuing free kick 32 yards to the 50. Seven plays later, Martin scored on a 20-yard run to push AVC's lead to 41-30 with 13:56 left in the game.
That still allowed Pierce plenty of time to rally, however, and the Brahmas drew closer just over five minutes later when Wabby threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Ty Harris. That made it 41-36 with 8:50 left, and then Wabby found David Hill and threw him a short pass for the 2-point conversion to make it 41-38. On the ensuing kickoff, Joiner took the ball but was met by an absolutely devastating hit by Kasif McBride, who hit Joiner in full stride on the kickoff coverage. The ball came loose, and David Kolbe recovered for Pierce at the 37. Six plays later, Sandoval booted a 37-yard field goal to tie the score, finally bringing Pierce even with 5:41 left at 41-41.
That set up the final sequence, as AVC was forced to punt after gaining just a single first down, and Anaya blocked the punt to set up the winning field goal. So for the entire game, the score was tied for 8:41, Antelope Valley led for 51:19 and Pierce led for exactly one minute. But it was the last minute of the game, and that is what counts most.
For Pierce, Wabby led the way, completing 26 of 52 passes for 326 yards, 3 touchdowns and just one interception. Damon Julian was his favorite target, catching 10 passes for 134 yards, though the touchdown passes were to Edmond, Harris and Ingram. The Pierce ground game was less effective, totaling just 46 yards on 37 carries, led by Daniel Lopez' 31 yards on 18 attempts. Edmond had a spectacular night returning kickoffs with 171 yards on 5 returns, including a 64-yard return that was actually a touchdown called back on the penalty.
For Antelope Valley, Firm was 17 for 45 for 218 yards and 2 TDs, but had 4 interceptions. Martin had his third straight strong game, rushing for 188 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Burke led AVC receivers with 81 yards on 4 catches.
L.A. Pierce Brahmas 44
Antelope Valley Marauders 41
Saturday, November 7, 2009 - 7 pm - John Shepard Stadium - Woodland Hills
American Division - Pacific Division
AV - Firm 1 yd run (pass failed) 11:27 (0-6)
AV - Martin 1 yd run (run failed) 7:30 (0-12)
P - Edmond 8 yd pass from Wabby (Sandoval kick) 6:46 (7-12)
AV - Burke 15 yd pass from Firm (Hall kick) 5:26 (7-19)
P - King 3 yd run (Sandoval kick) 14:15 (14-19)
AV - Martin 4 yd run (run failed) 9:35 (14-25)
P - FG Sandoval 31 yds 8:35 (17-25)
AV - Burke 7 yd pass from Firm (Hall kick) 4:34 (17-32)
P - Ingram 12 yd pass from Wabby (Sandoval kick) 0:44.2 (24-32)
P - King 4 yd run (run failed) 5:23 (30-32)
AV - Safety - Wabby tackled in end zone by C.Davis 1:32 (30-34)
AV - Martin 20 yd run (Hall kick) 13:56 (30-41)
P - Harris 36 yd pass from Wabby (Hill pass from Wabby) 8:50 (38-41)
P - FG Sandoval 37 yds 5:41 (41-41)
P - FG Sandoval 23 yds 1:00 (44-41)
First Downs: LA Pierce 23 (5 rush, 16 pass, 2 penalty), Antelope Valley 20 (7 rush, 10 pass, 3 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: LA Pierce 37-46, Antelope Valley 34-187
Passing Yds: LA Pierce 326, Antelope Valley 218
Comp-Att-Int: LA Pierce 26-52-1, Antelope Valley 17-45-4
Return Yds: LA Pierce 289, Antelope Valley 314
Sacks-Yds: LA Pierce 0-0, Antelope Valley 2-13
Fumbles-Lost: LA Pierce 0-0, Antelope Valley 3-1
Penalties-Yds: LA Pierce 12-127, Antelope Valley 13-120
Time of Possession: LA Pierce 31:09, Antelope Valley 28:51
Rushing: Pierce 28-D.Lopez 18-31, 3-Edmond 3-15, 45-King 5-7, 32-Taylor 4-7, 8-Wabby 6-(-13), team 1-(-1); AVC 24-Martin 21-188, 25-Teasley 6-7, 16-Mims 1-1, 20-White 2-(-1), 2-Firm 3-(-2), team 1-(-6)
Passing: Pierce 8-Wabby 26-52-1-326, 3 TDs; AVC 2-Firm 17-45-4-218, 2 TDs
Receiving: Pierce 4-Julian 10-134, 84-Ingram 6-61, 6-Harris 4-77, 3-Edmond 4-38, 28-D.Lopez 2-16; AVC 1-Burke 4-81, 29-Mattox 4-7, 16-Mims 3-48, 10-Eaton 3-44, 88-Crane 1-18, 28-Marquez 1-16, 24-Martin 1-4
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Pierce 20-Wells 1-58, 7-Aragon 1-12, 23-Johnson 1-3, 2-Allen 1-0; AVC 47-Rodgers 1-47
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Pierce 59-Kolbe (forced by 50-McBride); AVC none
Sacks-Yds: Pierce none; AVC 55-E.Davis 1-10, 7-Whitney 1-3
Punters: Pierce 8-Wabby 6-27.7 avg; AVC 98-Quintero 5-34.2 avg + 1 blk (by 64-Anaya)
Kick Returns: Pierce 3-Edmond 5-171, 29-Cantrell 1-18, 4-Julian 1-4; AVC 15-Joiner 5-145, 31-McLaughlin 3-91, 28-Marquez 2-33
Punt Returns: Pierce 64-Anaya 1-12, 3-Edmond 2-11; AVC 15-Joiner 1-(-2)
Missed FG: none
Notes: Showdown! Both teams entered 5-0 in conference play so this was for the conference title and the accompanying playoff berth. And What A Game! Edmond had an apparent TD on a kickoff following AVC's 1st TD negated on a penalty. Then Edmond's 59-yd kickoff return after AVC's 2nd TD set up Pierce's 1st TD. Ingram's TD was an amazing 1-handed grab. The tying FG came after Joiner fumbled the kickoff following Harris' TD after a pulverizing hit by McBride (Kolbe recovered for Pierce). The winning FG came after Anaya's punt block gave Pierce the ball at the AVC 26 with 3:58 left. AVC had a chance to tie or go ahead, and McLaughlin's 31-yd kickoff return got the ball into Pierce territory, but the drive ended with three incomplete passes at the Pierce 42 with 27.5 seconds left. Pierce entered #14 in the South and improves to 7-2 overall. AVC entered #16 in the South and falls to 5-4 overall.