The Sept. 21 football game at Del Norte High School went into overtime before Del Norte defeated Fallbrook by a 24-21 score.
“I think it was an exciting game for a lot of people, but I really felt we should have won the game,” said Fallbrook head coach Joe Silvey.
“It was exciting and well-fought,” said Del Norte head coach Leigh Cole. “The kids from both sides played a tough game.”
Del Norte opened the scoring in the first quarter when a sweep play gave Patrick Zeller a touchdown run. The Nighthawks’ drive also included a third-down pass from Isaiah McDonald to Jeffrey Valencia. Pedro Godomar kicked the conversion to give Del Norte a 7-0 lead.
The Warriors came back to tie the game, putting themselves in better position when quarterback Micah Marroquin completed a long pass to Boston Menossi and then crossing the goal line on Marroquin’s run before tying the score on a successful conversion kick by Markus Lewis.
The Warriors had been held scoreless the previous week against Arlington High School of Riverside. “We were happy to get on track and score,” Silvey said of Fallbrook’s first touchdown.
A 45-yard touchdown pass from Marroquin to Menossi in conjunction with Lewis’ kick put Fallbrook ahead in the third quarter, but later that period Del Norte’s Mark Gallant carried the ball for 45 yards to set up an eventual McDonald touchdown pass to Spenser Pennington. Godomar’s kick tied the game at 14-14.
With four minutes left in the fourth quarter Fallbrook faced fourth down with two yards to go. Menossi gained not only the first down but the entire 30 yards needed for a touchdown, but Fallbrook was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play. “As Boston went into the end zone he put his fist up in the air, and the official thought that was unsportsmanlike,” Silvey said.
The penalty was assessed on the kickoff, but not before Lewis’ kick gave Fallbrook a 21-14 lead. Because of the penalty Lewis kicked off from Fallbrook’s 25-yard-line, and David Belcher returned the kick approximately 60 yards to the Fallbrook 20.
After gaining an initial first down, Del Norte had first and goal. On second down, McDonald was tackled and dislocated his collarbone. McDonald was taken to Kaiser Hospital, and Jack Bensey took over as the Nighthawks’ quarterback. “He did a great job coming in there,” Cole said of Bensey. “That was a tough situation to come into, and he showed a lot of character and poise on his part.”
Bensey didn’t need to throw to tie the score. Del Norte had fourth down on Fallbrook’s one-yard-line when George Liang carried the ball into the end zone for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Godomar’s kick tied the game at 21-21.
On June 5 the CIF Board of Managers adopted the tiebreaking procedure used in the National Collegiate Athletic Association for all regular-season and post-season football games. Each team has one possession from the opposing 25 yard line which ends when that team scores (including a one-point or two-point conversion attempt following a touchdown), turns the ball over (if a turnover is returned for a touchdown the game ends with the scoring team as the winner), is stopped on fourth down without having reached the necessary yardage for a first down, or misses a field goal attempt. If the two teams are tied after one possession apiece, an ensuing pair of possessions is played. The game ends when one team outscores the other during a pair of possessions.
Had the game been played under 2011 rules, Cole would have had the decision of going for the tie or attempting a two-point conversion. “We had a little momentum going, so it’s possible,” Cole said of seeking a two-point conversion under the old rules. “I don’t like ties.”
Silvey also felt that Cole would have sought the win rather than the tie in the absence of overtime. “I would expect he probably would have gone for two,” he said.
Cole’s children attended Mira Mesa High School, and he was an assistant coach for the Marauders before taking the Del Norte position in 2011 He previously coached an overtime playoff game with Mira Mesa. Silvey’s only tie as Fallbrook’s coach was a 21-21 draw at Escondido in 2010.
“Everyone knows the rules going in, and that’s fine,” Silvey said of the current tiebreaking procedure.
“I love it,” Cole said of the new overtime rule. “It’s a great excitement for the fans. It gives you a conclusion.”
Fallbrook had the first possession, and after the Warriors failed to make a first down Lewis tried a field goal. His kick was blocked by Marcel Peters, giving Del Norte the ball at the Fallbrook 25.
The Nighthawks gained six yards on three plays before Godomar attempted a 36-yard field goal. The kick went between the uprights to give Del Norte the victory.
“It was a big game for our team,” Cole said.
Del Norte improved its record to 2-2, and all four games have been against Division I schools. “We felt like we were ready to take on the challenge,” Cole said of playing Division I teams.
Del Norte is in Division IV; the Nighthawks’ only 2011 win over a larger school was against Orange Glen.
“To have two (wins) early in the season and have one at home is really good,” said Cole, whose four 2011 wins were all home matches. “A win at home for us this time of year is big.”
Fallbrook’s record fell to 0-4, although the Warriors’ previous three losses were in regulation. “I think we really felt like we were in a position to win,” Silvey said.
While the overtime loss was an improvement over the season’s previous games, Silvey also noted that it was a learning experience. “We learned we’ve got to finish games and we learned we need to wait until we cross the goal line before we celebrate,” he said.
Fallbrook travels to Carlsbad for tomorrow’s game.