By APRIL ARNETT
If you're not able to end the season with a win, losing the way the Pintos did Saturday was certainly the way to go out......fighting to the very end. The Pintos made the Spoofhounds work for their 22-13 win in the Class 3 Semifinal game at Riley Field.
It was an emotional end for the Pintos (12-2 and ranked #5), who put it all on the line for their re-match with top-ranked Maryville, with hopes of advancing to the state championship. Last year California lost the semifinal game at Maryville 42-7.
With the semifinal win, Maryville (14-0) will face Seneca (11-3) for the state title at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Edwards Jones Dome, St. Louis. (Seneca defeated John Burroughs 31-7 in the other Class 3 semifinal game.)
"I'm extremely proud of our boys," California Coach Marty Albertson said. "They played with fantastic heart and effort. Unfortunately, we came up a little short, but we played a great game against a great team."
California's semifinal game saw two stellar defenses that weren't willing to budge. After a scoreless first quarter, it wasn't until 2:52 left in the second quarter that a Pinto fumble was recovered by Maryville's Dalton Pistole, who ran in a 70-yard touchdown to claim the first score of the game. After the two-point conversion, the Spoofhounds led 8-0.
Maryville's next possession resulted in a 43-yard TD run by Payden Dawson. The two-point conversion attempt failed when Jon Goans took Maryville quarterback Trent Nally down before he could execute the play, and the Spoofhounds led 14-0 with 41 seconds left in the first half.
Then Walker Borghardt returned Maryville's punt 77 yards for a TD to give the Pintos new life. Aaron Cuevas nailed the point after and California trailed 14-7 with 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Pintos battled bad field position in the third quarter, including possessions starting at their 1-yard line, 5-yard line and 4-yard line, while the Spoofhounds were in much better position, including one drive that began at California's 10-yard line after Maryville recovered a Pinto fumble. But the Pinto defense held the Spoofhounds back.
The fourth quarter saw Maryville's first possession begin at the Spoofhounds' 47-yard line and end with a 13-yard TD pass from Nally to Adam Thompson. Dawson ran in the two-point conversion, and Maryville led 22-7 with 7:54 left to play.
California answered with a 3-play drive capped with a 57-yard TD by quarterback Jaden Barr. After the two-point attempt failed, the Pintos trailed 22-13 with 7:12 remaining.
Then Cuevas executed an onside kick that California recovered. Four plays later, the Pintos were at Maryville's 10-yard line on the fourth down, with Cuevas kicking a field goal. Unfortunately, the kick was blocked by the Spoofhounds.
Maryville went three and out on the ensuing possession, however, the punt return was fumbled by California with 3:33 left to play, and the Spoofhounds started their drive at the Pintos' 34-yard line. Once again, the Pinto defense stepped up and held Maryville to one first down and the Spoofhounds were forced to turn the ball over on downs at California's 3-yard line.
Like I said, the Pintos weren't going down without a fight. California managed four plays before time ran out and Maryville claimed a 22-13 victory.
"Our defense played extremely well," Albertson said. "Offensively, we were running against the best defense probably in the state, so they made us work for it. They were tough to run against."
The Pintos ended up with 30 carries for 115 yards and Barr completed 7 of 13 passes for 67 yards for 182 yards of total offense.
Barr led California rushing with five carries for 64 yards. Jerry Lutz followed with five carries for 21 yards, while Dylan Albertson had five carries for 12 yards.
The Spoofhounds had 53 carries for 179 yards and Nally completed 3 of 7 passes for 39 yards for a total of 218 yards of offense.
Dakota Beemer led Maryville rushing with 22 carries for 138 yards. Dawson followed with six carries for 60 yards, and Brody McMahon had 17 carries for 42 yards.
Lutz led Pinto tackles with 14 and one sack for a 10-yard loss. Jon Goans and Jacob Johnson each had eight, and Dustin Forsythe had seven. Nathan Squires had two sacks, one for a 6-yard loss and one for a 2-yard loss. Nathan Goans had a sack for a 1-yard loss.
Chris Dougan led Maryville tackles with 10.
"I have to thank all of our kids," Albertson said. "They gave us everything we asked for and we had fantastic results. Our seniors had great commitment, great leadership and a great work ethic, which is what it took to change our program. Hopefully now that will be our tradition."