Austin Perkins’ pass dropped into the arms of Jorge Flores and the celebration was on. Tucson High took a 21-17 lead with 26 seconds left and the Badger players, coaches and fans were in full celebration mode. However, 23 seconds later, it was the Mountain View faithful who were celebrating a 24-21 win.
Down 17-14 the Badgers went to work at their own 20. Nine plays later they faced a fourth and long from the Mountain View 46. The Badger punter rolled to his right then tossed the ball to a teammate running behind him on the reverse who raced the opposite direction, only to be met by several Mountain Lion defenders. Although perfectly defended, no one actually brought him down and he was able to change direction and race 15 yards for the first down.
The Badgers moved down to the 19 and appeared to be content to try for the field goal. They ran two plays up the middle for three yards before calling timeout. It seemed to be a curious call, playing for the field goal, as the Badgers missed two kicks earlier in the game, but it proved to be an act of misdirection. The Badgers handed off to Austin, who took two strides then lofted the pass to Flores, who got behind the Mountain Lion defense, and put the Badgers up.
It appeared as if it was going to be a sweet victory for the Badgers and a bitter defeat for Mountain View as the game has quietly become one of the best, and bitterest rivalries in town. Badger Head Coach Justin Argraves was coach of the Mountain Lions, his first head coaching job, for one year but left to take the Tucson High job. Both sides have their own version of the events that led to his departure, but neither was happy with how the relationship ended. If losing a coach after one season was not tough enough, Argraves took several assistants, and a few players with him to Tucson High.
With all of the players who actually played for Argraves on the varsity having moved on, it looked as if the rivalry was going to die out, but that all changed after several players left Tucson High for Mountain View over the summer. To make matters worse, it was Tucson High that brought the recruiting allegations against the Mountain Lions, that led to Mountain View being placed on probation and a trio of players being ruled ineligible.
One of those players, running back Bryce Coleman, was cleared this week and played against the Badgers.
In essence, this game had become the Mountain Lions’ playoffs and they were going to lose in the final minute of the game. That revelation could be crippling to a team, but Justice Summerset and the Mountain View offense took it in stride.
Tucson High kicked a low, short, bounding ball that was fielded by up-man Romello Michaels. He grabbed the kickoff, sprinted to his left and turned the ball up-field, being forced out at the 45.
Summerset trotted out with just 19 seconds left in the game and went to work. He hoisted a pass down the middle for sophomore Isaiah Lovett, who hauled it in and raced 36-yards to the Badger 20-yard line.
It was Lovett’s first appearance for the Lions as well. Lovett transferred from Pusch Ridge to Mountain View, his neighborhood school, but was ruled ineligible until earlier in the week when he was grated a hardship waver.
With just 10.5 seconds left Summerset hoisted a pass to the back left corner of the endzone. Despite being double covered, Jeff Cotton grabbed the pass and got his feet down inbounds as he fell out of bounds. The extra point put the Lions up 24-21 and after the ensuing kickoff ran out the remaining three seconds, it was Mountain View’s turn to celebrate.
“I trust Jeff,” Summerset said. “Me and Jeff have a connection, we work on it every day in practice. I knew he’d find a way to catch that ball, I just needed to throw it up and let him make a play.”
“I just had to go up and get it,” said Cotton. “It was a great throw by Justice.”
Summerset finished with decent numbers, 218 yards on 14-32 passing, but started the game 0-9, and was 2-15 late in the second quarter.
“We couldn’t get our offense going worth a lick all night,” said Mountain View Head Coach Bam McRae. “Kids make plays when called upon. That’s why you practice, that’s why they play the game.”
While the Mountain Lion offense was scuffling, Tucson High was taking the lead on another halfback pass. This time is was Perkins catching a 23-yard pass from running back Jeff Lockwood.
The Lions tied things up two possessions later. Cotton, making his debut, took a handoff up the middle and burst up the middle for 45 yards.
“At first it was real nerve wracking, because I knew I had some friends on the other team. The crowd, it kind of got to me a little bit. After I got comfortable I was able to just play my game.”
Cotton finished with 12 carries for 74 yards.
The Lions took their first lead in the final seconds of the first half. On third and long Summerset connected with Lovett on a 32-yarder. Two plays later he connected with Cotton on a 17-yard score with just 10.8 seconds in the half.
Tucson High made it 14-14 on a Flores keeper, but on the next possession, Summerset missed on a fade to the corner of the endzone but the Lions took the 17-14 with 8:47 left in the game.
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