We knew Friday night's game at the Falcon Athletic Complex was going to be intense. It was two longtime rivals, both state-ranked and riding high on winning streaks, facing off for the first time this season, and it was Blair Oaks' Homecoming. Somebody was bound to be disappointed.
In the end though, this really wasn't the case. Sure, Pinto fans were disappointed California lost, but what a whale of a game it was! Hats off to both teams for executing an exciting nail-biter that the Falcons won 29-28.
"We didn't play with the excitement and emotion that Blair Oaks did in the first half," California Coach Marty Albertson said. "But we came out in the second half and played much better."
The Falcons got busy on their second possession, scoring on a 39-yard TD pass from Jordan Hair to CJ Closser at the 7:08 mark in the first quarter. Chris Cooper kicked the point after and Blair Oaks led 7-0.
The Pintos answered with an 11-play drive capped with a 1-yard TD by Jaden Barr with 11:05 remaining in the second quarter. Aaron Cuevas nailed the PAT and the score was even at 7-7.
With 3:03 left in the first half, Hair hit Haydn Lock with a 14-yard TD pass. Cooper scored the point after and the Falcons led 14-7.
California's next drive was cut short by a fumble recovered by Blair Oaks' Caleb Bischoff, who returned it for a 25-yard TD. Cooper got the PAT and the Falcons led 21-7.
The Pintos opened the third quarter with a 5-play drive that included a 52-yard run by Jerry Lutz, followed by a 1-yard TD by Barr. Cuevas nailed the point after and California trailed 21-14.
The Falcons answered with a drive cut short when Hair's pass was intercepted by Barr, who returned it for a 17-yard TD. After Cuevas' point after, the game was tied at 21-21.
Blair Oaks' next possession also resulted in a turnover when a Falcon fumble was recovered by California's Cole George. The Pintos ensued with a 3-play drive topped with an 46-yard run by Seth Fairchild, who broke five tackles en route to the TD.
Cuevas score the PAT and the Pintos took their first lead of the night, 28-21, with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
The final quarter sealed the deal for the Falcons.
"There were so many plays that could've made a difference had they gone differently," Albertson said. "But you can't point a finger. As a team, you win as a team and you lose as a team. We learn from our mistakes and it will do us well down the road."
Allan Burger recovered a Blair Oaks fumble at the 9:00 mark, however, the Pinto drive that ensued came up short on the fourth-and-2 and the Pintos were forced to turn it over on downs.
The Falcons answered with a 12-play drive capped with a hook and ladder play that had Hair pitching a 7-yard pass to Lock, who pitched it to Adam Schell, who ran eight yards in for the TD with :43 left to play.
California's next possession ended with an interception by Mikel Drehle.
"Blair Oaks played a great game," Albertson said. "You know last year we beat them and they went to the dome. Hopefully that will give us some incentive."
The Pintos had 46 carries for a total of 282 yards. Barr completed 2 of 10 passes for 40 yards, and threw one interception.
The Falcons had 41 carries for 136 yards. Hair completed 15 of 22 passes for 290 yards and threw one interception.
Fairchild led California rushing with seven carries for 73 yards, Lutz had 12 carries for 72 yards, Barr had 15 for 88 yards, and Luke Burger had nine for 41 yards.
Lutz led Pinto tackles with 10. Jon Goans followed with eight. Nathan Squires had seven. Dylan Albertson had seven. Barr had six and one interception. Nathan Goans had three sacks.
Ramiro Garcia, Cole George and Allan Burger each had a fumble recovery.
The Pintos (5-1 and 3-1 in Tri-County Conference) will travel to Osage Friday, for another conference game, at 7 p.m.
"It will be another good contest," Albertson said. "Osage throws as good or better than Blair Oaks. They will score a lot of points. We have to be efficient on offense and score. Hopefully we will play all four quarters this week."