A 24-yard touchdown pass from Central High (Fresno) quarterback Dayton Tafoya to wide receiver Joshua Hill with 2.7 seconds remaining lifted the visiting Grizzlies to a stunning 38-34 victory over previously unbeaten Bishop Diego on Saturday night at La Playa Stadium.
Central overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit behind a flurry of spectacular plays to leave Bishop Diego in disbelief as the clock struck zero.
“It had big plays. It had costly mistakes. It had big opportunities and it was one of those games that hopefully we learn from,” said Bishop Diego head coach Tom Crawford. “We need a game like this I think to kind of understand the need to play for four quarters and the level of competition we’re trying to play at.”
Central came out strong to start the game and marched down the field on a seven-play, 66-yard drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown pass from Tafoya to Noel Felix III with exactly nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Grizzlies took a 7-0 lead after the ensuing extra point.
The slow start defensively did not deter the Cardinals as they responded with a 15-play, 81-yard drive of their own. Qu’Ran Gossett capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge with 54.2 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Bishop Diego missed the extra point and continued to trail 7-6.
The Grizzlies built on their lead with ten consecutive points, including a 14-yard touchdown run by Michael James that boosted Central to a 17-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
A 43-yard pass from A.J. Vele to Bryan Trejo put Bishop Diego back in gear and the Cardinals cut their deficit to 17-13 on a three-yard touchdown run by Gossett with 4:37 remaining before halftime.
The next Central drive stalled out and a fake punt resulted in a loss of seven-yards, which set up Bishop Diego with a first and ten from the opposing 19-yard line. Two plays later Vele connected with Greco Guevara on a nine yard touchdown pass with 2:09 remaining in the second quarter to put the Cardinals ahead 20-17.
After grabbing the lead Bishop Diego displayed increased confidence to start the second half and took a 27–17 lead after a 16-yard Misa Pauia touchdown with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from Independent.com, in your inbox, every morning.
The Cardinals’ lead ballooned to 34-17 when Vele connected with Gossett, who snuck out of the back field on a wheel route for a 25-yard touchdown on third-and-21. That play accounted for Bishop Diego’s last points of the game with 11:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Everything appeared to be under control for Bishop Diego until Central running back Michael James scored from one-yard out, cutting the Grizzlies deficit to 34-24 with 7:21 remaining. Central went on to discover the ensuing onside kick.
On the first play of the next drive Tafoya tossed a beautiful deep ball to Felix III, who high-pointed the ball in the end zone for a spectacular touchdown, despite excellent coverage from Bishop Diego cornerback Bryan Trejo to bring Central within 34-31 with 7:11 remaining in the game.
“I knew coming into this game they were a really good team that’s why I wasn’t getting big headed” Gossett said. “It was a good humbling experience and I’m excited to play other team’s like that.”
Despite that drastic turn of events Bishop Diego remained in control of the game and methodically marched down the field to the five-yard line with a chance to put the game away with just over two minutes remaining.
However, a penalty backed the Cardinals up and created a third-and-seven from the ten yard line. Bishop Diego broke out a trick play, but wide receiver Liam Flood fumbled as he tried to get off a pass to the quarterback Vele and Central recovered at the 25-yard line.
Eleven plays later Tafoya found Hill in the end zone with 2.7 seconds left.
“This was the first game we really had to go through the four quarters of play,” Crawford said. “In terms of even things like conditioning you want to make sure you have those things taken care of before you get into league.”