CVHS beats the Chiefs for their first road playoff win since 1977.
By Brian PARK
CV Weekly Intern
Up 27-24 in the final two minutes of play, Coach Tony Zarrillo was faced with a fourth and one near midfield. If converted, the Falcons would basically lock up the win. If not converted, the Falcons would give the Santa Fe Chiefs great field position and a chance to tie or even win the game. The decision paid off as the fourth down was converted and the Falcons beat the Chiefs for their first road playoff win since 1977.
The Falcons came onto the field focused, scoring on the first possession capped by a touchdown run by quarterback Kyle Cota to take an early 7-0 lead. The Chiefs came right back, scoring on the first play of their possession with a 75 yard run to tie things at seven points apiece within the first three minutes.
The Falcons received the following kickoff in a humorous fashion with lineman Sam Campbell catching the ball and running over a Chiefs defender to give the Falcons workable field position at their own 27 yard line. The drive would end on a 43 yard field goal attempt that would not even get close to the uprights.
The defense, helped by penalties against Santa Fe, kept the Chiefs from moving the ball, forcing a punt. Special team standout Tanner Hamilton returned the punt 30 yards and set up what would be a field goal by reliable kicker Arian Abghari at the start of the second quarter.
The Falcon defense continued to put the pressure on the Chiefs, forcing a hurried pass that was picked off by slot receiver Mike Bako at the Chief 30 yard line. Bako also recovered a fumble later in the game.
“Bako is a good defensive player, but gets the most attention from being an offensive player,” said Falcons coach Zarrillo.
The Falcons tried the passing approach, failing three times before a gain of 22 yards on fourth down to get within eight yards of the goal line. Cota fumbled on first down, but only lost four yards, keeping the Falcons within range to score a touchdown. Running back Harry Pessy then took it in to the end zone for a touchdown from 12 yards out to give the Falcons a 17-7 lead.
The Chiefs gained momentum for the rest of the half, however, scoring 14 unanswered points to give them a 21-17 lead.
The first half shootout turned into a defensive stand as the Falcons only allowed three points in the second half.
The Falcons took the lead on a touchdown pass by Cota and never trailed for the rest of the game.
In the closing minutes, Pessy was trusted to convert the fourth down and converted one of two. The second fourth down conversion attempt was fumbled by Pessy and gave the Chiefs the ball with 57 seconds and 70 yards left to go.
Defensive back Dai Dai McFadden sealed the win with an interception, instantly sending the Falcons and the visiting crowd into a flurry of cheers and emotion.
“We were better in the second half than in the first,” said Zarrillo. “[Defensive coordinator Paul] Schilling made some nice adjustments at the half.”
The Falcons play the South Hills Huskies in the second round of the CIF playoffs at home tomorrow night.