With less than a minute and a half left in the game Friday, the Pintos held a 14-13 lead over the Southern Boone Eagles and had stopped the Eagles on a fourth down. It looked as if California would be celebrating an upset.
But a few plays later, a reversal of fortunes shot down those dreams of a Pintos celebration.
After stopping the Eagles on a fourth down and short, the Pintos held the ball with a 14-13 lead and 1:25 on the game clock. The Pintos offense took over the ball and ran for a first down. The Eagles (6-2) used their last time out, and it appeared victory was assured for California (1-7).
But on second down, the Pintos lost the ball on an exchange during a hand off, and the ball found itself in the hands of an Eagles defender, who scooped it up and took it back for a touchdown. After a two-point conversion, the Eagles held a 21-14 lead with 1:18 left in the game.
California fans stood in shocked silence, while Southern Boone's went crazy at this turn of events.
With a minute left in the game, the Pintos regained possession and got the ball to their own 37-yard line on the team's final drive, but lost the ball on another fumble. Southern Boone recovered the ball and ran out the clock.
Head coach Derek Scroggins said the team played extremely hard, despite the ending.
"We definitely had our chances to win, and we just came up short in the end," Scroggins said.
It was a hard-fought defensive battle throughout, as neither team was able to score until the final minutes of the first quarter. Late in the first quarter, California's defense forced Southern Boone to punt the ball, and the Eagles were able to down the ball at California's one-yard line. After a short run on first down got the Pintos to their own three-yard line, Tagen Higgins took the hand off on second down to the right side of the field and, after getting into some open space, ran a blistering 97 yards down the Pintos sideline to the endzone as he left everyone in the dust to give the Pintos a 7-0 lead with 3:07 left in the quarter.
Southern Boone tied the game at 7-7 with 10:49 in the second quarter, the only time either team scored any points in the quarter. The Pintos had a chance to answer back in the second quarter after Southern Boone tied the game. But with the ball around the Eagles' 30-yard line, the Pintos' pass on second down was intercepted inside Southern Boone's 15-yard line.
Southern Boone began to move the ball down the field but turned the ball over as a pass was intercepted by Calen Kruger at the Pintos' 38-yard line. The Pintos were unable to capitalize on the turnover and punted the ball. Near the end of the first half, California got its second takeaway of the game as the team recovered a fumble on its own 43-yard line with 3:22 left in the half. But, the team had to punt again. After another punt by Southern Boone, California's offense almost came away with some points as it drove down to Southern Boone's 28-yard line in the final seconds of the half. The team attempted a field goal from the 28-yard line, but the kick was blocked to end the half with the game still tied at 7-7.
In the second half, it was the Pintos that struck first as Kruger threw a 47-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Drake Schlup to give the Pintos a 14-7 lead with 9:11 left in the third quarter. That remained the score until 5:38 left in the fourth quarter. The Eagles scored on a short touchdown pass with 5:38 left in the game but missed the extra point and left California with a 14-13 lead. After a California punt, the Eagles had the ball near the Pintos 35-yard line and slowly began to head toward the red zone. At the end of the drive, the Eagles faced third and 12 at the Pintos' 22-yard line. The Eagles then ran for 10 yards on third down to make it fourth and two to go at California's 11. The Pintos' defense was able to play some tough defense and stuffed their fourth-down attempt to give the Pintos the ball back in a turnover on downs.
California showed its big play ability with both of the team's touchdowns, Scroggins said.
"The explosiveness aspect of it definitely helps out and shows that we were always just one play away from something big happening," Scroggins said.
California's defense held a high-scoring Southern Boone's offense to only 14 points. Before the game, Southern Boone had scored 20 or more points in six games. In four of those six games, Southern Boone scored 40 or more points.
Scroggins said the team's defense tackled a lot better in this game than it had earlier in the season.
"I feel like we started to execute. We tackled a lot better tonight, we pursued to the ball, we played good assignment football, and we put ourselves in a position to win the game," Scroggins said.
The Pintos' next game is at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at Blair Oaks (8-0). Blair Oaks is coming off of a 57-7 victory against Osage.