After Nipomo kicker Juan Eguiluz pulled a 32-yard field wide-left as time expired in the first half, he was down on himself in the locker room.
“I said ‘Bro, keep your head up. You’re gonna kick the one to (expletive) win it,’ ” Nipomo head coach Tony Dodge said.
“And that’s what happened.”
Eguiluz got his chance at redemption with 4 seconds left in the game and made it count, hitting the game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired to defeat Twentynine Palms 17-14. Dodge said it was the first game-winning field goal in school history.
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“It was a rush,” Eguiluz said. “I just saw it go down the middle and I was so happy to see my team.”
After Nipomo’s defense stopped Twentynine Palms on a fourth-and-3 to get the ball back on its own 45, Nipomo quarterback Gavin Hall completed a 35-yard pass to Lukas Kolesar on third down to put the Titans in field goal range. Eguiluz drew on his experience in practice as he approached the kick.
“Every week on Thursday, we do pressure kicks so it was just another day, another pressure kick,” Eguiluz said.
The Twentynine Palms coaches tired to add pressure to the already pressure-packed moment by calling back-to-back timeouts in a effort to “ice” the kicker. But the snap and the hold were perfect and Eguliuz’s strike was true, pure enough to slice through a stiff southwest wind that blew across the Nipomo campus the entire night.
“During warmups, I was kicking it towards the left pole because the wind was taking it from left to right,” Eguiluz said.
And just like before the game, the line-drive kick faded from left to right as it sailed through the uprights.
“It was lower, but it went in,” Eguiluz said with a grin. “That’s all that matters.”
As the referees camped out under the goal posts raised their hands skyward, the Nipomo players and coaches swarmed the field to celebrate.
“We weren’t going to look at first,” Nipomo linebacker Terry Wambolt said, “but it was amazing. It was the most intense game I have ever played in.”
Nipomo handed the No. 2 seeded Twentynine Palms its first loss of the season and advanced to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs, where they will face Linfield Christian.
“Honestly it brought me to tears,” Hall said. “I know Juan is an amazing kicker and just for him to hit that kick is the best feeling in the world.”