Joyce rescues Crusaders with game-winning TD pass

Brenden Joyce came off the bench for the last three plays of the game and hit Mark Rubalcaba for the game-winning 77-yard pass on fourth-and-10 with one second remaining Saturday to lead host Faith Lutheran’s football team to a 32-28 win over Mojave.

The final play was the only time in the game Mojave (4-1, 2-1 Sunset League) trailed after dominating the first and fourth quarters and holding leads of 14-0 and 28-20.

Ty Flanagan led the Rattlers’ quick start, gaining 96 of his game-high 122 rushing yards in the first quarter, a stretch when the Mojave defense held Faith Lutheran (2-3, 1-2) to 20 yards of total offense.

Mojave quarterback Zack Arave took the spotlight in the fourth quarter. After the Crusaders tied the score at 20 on a 24-yard Chcristian Marshall run and Ryan Callan PAT, Arave orchestrated a 13-play, 73-yard drive capped by his 6-yard TD run and 2-point conversion run to make it 28-20 with 4:40 left in the game.

Faith answered quickly when, on the third play of the ensuing drive, Marshall notched a 49-yard run for touchdown. But Mojave retained the lead when the pass attempt for the two-point conversion fell short of the receiver.

Arave was hurt on the Marshall touchdown, but the Rattlers seemed unfazed as Lamaja Cunningham took over and earned two first downs on what looked like a game-ending drive. But the Crusaders stood firm and forced a punt, taking over on their own 23 with 39 seconds to play.

On the first play of the comeback drive, Faith Lutheran’s starting quarterback Greg Benson threw an incomplete pass and then left the game with an injury. Joyce entered, hit Josh Hong on a pass for no gain, then threw a ball off a receiver’s hands to stop the clock with one tick left before hitting Rubalcaba in full stride for the game-winner on fourth down.

An unsung hero for the Crusaders was Callan, who was perfect on PATs and hit two field goals for eight points and allowed just two returns on six kickoffs.

Rubalcaba finished with 100 yards on three catches. Marshall had three rushing touchdowns and 91 yards on 11 carries.

Arave was Mojave’s second-leading rusher with 72 yards on 16 carries.