Between the pouring rain during the North Coast Section Division I playoff game with Heritage and the sizeable lead the Mustangs opened up, the warmth of home felt tempting.
But the visiting Patriots weren’t about to leave Danville without a fight. Early in the fourth quarter, Heritage trailed by 28, but it was able to close the gap. The comeback bid fell short, however, as the Patriots were bounced from the postseason in a 42-36 loss to Monte Vista.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Heritage senior linebacker Jacob Catala said. “I love these guys and I’m sad that it had to end.”
For most of the game, the Mustangs (7-4) looked poised to cruise to victory. With roughly 10 minutes remaining, senior quarterback Jeff Lockie found sophomore receiver Marco Zamora for an 18-yard touchdown, giving Monte Vista a 42-14 lead. The pass was Oregon-bound Lockie’s fifth score of the night.
While the stands thinned out, the Patriots’ attack beefed up.
When Heritage (5-6) got the ball back, it drove 68 yards for a touchdown – ending with an 11-yard run by junior Mason Sergent. After the two-point conversion failed, the Patriots trailed 42-20.
Senior Debon Nock-Selgado took over for Lockie when the Mustangs returned to the field. Heritage’s defense was able to force a three-and-out. Patriots junior quarterback Anthony Carter managed another drive, completing three consecutive passes – the final one to junior receiver Carson Cleverly for a 24-yard score with 2:44 remaining.
The Patriots gained hope for an upset when junior halfback Devin Hope ran in the two-point conversion, slicing Monte Vista’s lead to 42-28.
“Coach was always telling us, play until the scoreboard winds down, no matter what,” said senior running back Jorel Avila, who ran for two touchdowns and 56 yards. “That’s what we did, we just played and had fun, and before you know it, we were in the game.”
Heritage recovered the onside kick, rejuvenating the Patriots’ sideline. They drove from the Mustang 44, down to a second-and-goal situation at the five yard line. From there, senior receiver Kejhan Clayton took the hand off and pounded it out for a touchdown. Cleverly, the holder on placekicks, was able to turn a muffed hold into a successful two-point conversion. With just over a minute remaining, the Patriots were within striking distance, trailing 42-36.
A touchdown would tie the game. The extra point would win it, sending Heritage to play San Leandro in the second round.
However, when the Patriots rolled the dice again on the onside kick, luck wasn’t in their favor. The Mustangs recovered the bouncing ball, and killed the clock with runs by junior running back Zack Chang.
“It was kind a microcosm of our season,” Heritage head coach Jeff Haagenson. “We’re just good enough to get beat by good teams.”