The 2014 installment of the Clash of the Coast meeting between the Morro Bay and Templeton high football teams had all the nail-biting moments, cries of joy, tears of dejection and controversial calls you’d expect in a one-point rivalry game.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was the visiting Pirates celebrating at midfield while the Eagles stood in stunned silence and a packed Volunteer Stadium sent the referees off the field in a chorus of boos.
Morro Bay’s Elijah Garcia got just enough of a hand on a potential go-ahead field goal by Templeton’s Angel Avelar in the waning seconds that it landed short to preserve a 23-22 win for the Pirates that spoiled the Eagles’ Homecoming and ended their six-game win streak.
“I saw on film they use a delay with their hands, so I just got wide, used my speed and tried to time it the best I could,” Garcia said. “I just laid out and got a hand on it.
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“I honestly thought it went in, but then I saw everyone go crazy.”
Garcia and several other Pirates collided with Avelar after the 25-yard attempt, which drew a flag, but was picked up because the kicker can be run into if the ball is blocked.
The lack of a penalty caused an uproar from home coaches, players and fans alike, who not only saw the contact, but also thought Garcia crossed the neutral zone prior to the snap.
“He had to be offsides,” Templeton coach Dan Loney said. “He looked like he was offsides. Where was that call?
“The message going forward is: Don’t let this define you. Use this as motivation going into the last two weeks.”
The play punctuated a frantic comeback attempt by the Eagles (6-2, 1-1 Northern League), who trailed 23-7 before fourth-quarter touchdown runs by wideout Christian Hauser and quarterback Jordan Bernal brought them within one with 5:26 to play.
The Pirates (3-5, 1-1) ran three minutes off the clock and quarterback Isaac Manaputy, who rushed for a game-high 108 yards, launched a 41-yard punt to Templeton’s 19.
With 2:02 remaining and one timeout, Bernal and the Eagles went to work. The junior found Nate Avery over the middle for seven yards and two plays later hooked up with Hauser to their 47. A personal foul late hit was tacked on at the end of the reception, putting Templeton at Morro Bay’s 38 with 1:08 to play.
The Eagles ran out of bounds on consecutive following plays, but both officials ruled forward progress was stopped beforehand and the clock continued to move. Bernal eventually scrambled for 13 yards to the 8, and Templeton took its final timeout and brought out Avelar to kick with 7.3 seconds remaining.
“Our boys are always ready to fight,” Loney said. “And they continue to fight until there’s nothing left on the clock.”
“Obviously, a very, very emotional game,” Morro Bay coach Jack Greer said. “A lot of calls going both ways, and we found a way to persevere.
“I can’t comment (on the field goal attempt) until I look at it again, but from what I saw, we blocked it, and so you’re able to run into him.”
The Pirates took advantage of a pair of early Templeton fumbles deep in its own territory to take a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
Mario Barragan pounced on a Gunnar Griffin fumble on the game’s third play to set Morro Bay up with a first-and-goal from the Eagles’ 10. William Unks punched in a fourth-down run from the 2 for the first of his two TD runs, and Manaputy scored from the same distance on the next drive after a Hauser fumble gave Morro Bay the ball on Templeton’s 13-yard line.
“You can’t give them a short field, and we did,” Loney said. “You take away those points and it’s a different ballgame.”
Hauser returned the ensuing kickoff into Pirates’ territory, and Avery Shannon took a wideout screen 45 yards for a touchdown to pull Templeton within 13-7.
Manaputy, who missed the second half of last week’s loss to Nipomo with a neck injury, ran a game-high 23 times and kicked a 20-yard field goal.
Unks finished with 14 carries for 44 yards, and Jordan Liberatore took seven carries for 49 yards.
After holding Nipomo to 2 rushing yards on 31 carries, the Pirates stifled Templeton’s multi-personnel rushing attack, keeping them at minus-5 yards on 14 rushes through two quarters to build a 16-7 halftime lead.
“It’s Greer’s defensive scheme,” Garcia said. “He’s a mastermind. He just tells us what to do and we execute his game plan the best we can.”
The Eagles finished with 104 yards on the ground, led by Hauser’s 41, and Bernal and Griffin combined to throw for 100 yards on 13-of-17 passing.
But in a rivalry where the teams have averaged a one-point outcome, the home team bitterly walked off the field on the wrong end of the Clash of the Coast for the third straight year.
“I’m disappointed,” Templeton senior co-captain Brody Camping said. “There were a lot of things that happened in this game that weren’t in our control. You can’t blame it on that, tough. Both teams came out and played hard. The pieces just weren’t there for us tonight.”