Foothill’s football team put together a great fourth quarter, scoring 20 points on the road against rival Basic.
But the Falcons still couldn’t breath a sigh of relief until the final play.
Senior Chris Dieguez jumped a seam route and picked off a pass intended for Josh Villaros at the Foothill 11, and time expired on his return to seal a 34-30 win over the Wolves on Friday.
“We knew they were going to try to throw it to (Villaros), and he just did a good job of stepping in front and making a play on the football,” Foothill coach Marty Redmond said.
Foothill (4-3, 2-0 Southeast) had a chance to seal the victory after an Aedan Bartolowitz interception with 1:33 to play. Bartolowitz returned the ball to the Basic 20, and a personal foul on the return moved the ball to the 10.
But the Falcons didn’t gain anything on three plays, and Basic’s Tristan Anderl blocked Mikkel Lestrup’s 27-yard field-goal attempt, giving the Wolves the ball at their 28 with 1:04 to play.
Three completions and a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Foothill 28 with 11 seconds to go. Basic’s Aeneas McAllister tried to get the ball to Villaros, but Dieguez jumped the route to seal the win.
“We knew we had to bend and not break,” Redmond said. “They didn’t have any timeouts, so we knew they were kind of limited in what they could do. We just needed to make a play, and we finally did.”
Dieguez said: “My heart was pumping, and we had to work as a team. We just kept repeating to ourselves ‘stay disciplined, remain disciplined.’ ”
Three kickoff plays snagged the momentum for Foothill in the fourth quarter.
After Basic’s John Funaki scored on a 1-yard run to put the Wolves (4-4, 1-2) up 23-14 with 11:01 to go, Foothill’s Bobby Merritt returned the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 23-21.
The Falcons then went for the onside kick, and Lestrup hit a high bouncer that went over a line of Basic players and Foothill’s Nick Gardner pounced on the ball at the Basic 29.
Four plays later, Devon Mueller found Gardner wide open in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard TD pass and a 27-23 lead with 9:15 to go.
“We definitely got the momentum,” Redmond said of the onside kick. “That was a heck of a kick. That thing just bounced up huge and then sat down and laid on the ground like a potato. So it was a beautiful kick for us, and it really got the momentum going after a big score. That changed the momentum of the whole game.”
Basic wasn’t done, driving 58 yards on 14 plays, capped by a 10-yard TD run by McAllister to take a 30-27 advantage with 4:34 to go. The Wolves converted two fourth downs on the drive.
Basic decided to go for its own onside kick to try to ice the game. But Foothill’s Daniel Mendoza recovered at midfield, giving the Falcons a short field to work with.
They took advantage, driving 50 yards on seven plays, capped by Merritt’s 6-yard TD run that made the score 34-30 with 1:50 to go.
Mueller completed 11 of 20 passes for 115 yards and two TDs. He was 6-for-9 in the second half and completed his final four passes.
McAllister was 15-for-31 for 203 yards, including a 41-yard TD pass to Villaros. McAllister also rushed for 76 yards on 11 carries for Basic.
“The kids live for this game,” Redmond said. “I think both sides live for this game. It’s always a fantastic environment. It’s a great high school atmosphere. I wish all of our games were this type of atmosphere.”
Contact reporter Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.