Colts snatch victory from Vikings in final minute
In a 38-year football series that has been as one-sided as the Caped Crusader’s duels with the Joker, South Tahoe High’s latest defeat to Wooster has to rank among the toughest to swallow.
Derek McNeil scored the go-ahead touchdown with 54 seconds to play and then Jose Lopez picked off a pass deep in Wooster territory as the Colts cast a pall on homecoming with a 21-20 Sierra Division victory Saturday in South Lake Tahoe.
“This was the toughest loss of my coaching career,” said Vikings coach Tim Jaureguito, who accepted the blame for the Vikings’ first division defeat by electing not to kick a potential game-winning field goal with 15 seconds remaining.
The Vikings were sailing along with a 20-14 lead deep into the fourth quarter, tasting their third win in the all-time series that Wooster now leads 22-2.
“I know my kids answered some questions for me, and I don’t care what everyone thinks about our school and our kids,” said Wooster coach Tony Amantia, who is in his second season at Wooster, following legendary coach Joe Sellers. “Ask Joe where this one ranks. He’s hunting and fishing. And I got on his butt because he wasn’t going to be up here. This is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever been involved in.”
McNeil took a 43-yard punt by Carlos Romero at his 14 and returned it 25 yards to the 39 to set up the winning drive with 2 minutes, 58 seconds to go. Ben Confer nearly put the tying touchdown on the board with one gallop but Chas Tanner pulled him down at the Viking 11 after a 36-yard run.
But the yards didn’t come easily after that as the Vikings defense sensed the urgency of keeping the Colts out of the end zone. Running back Robby Stallings was stopped by Eddie Colegrove and Chris Ortiz for a 1-yard loss and then Ryan Griffith, Justin Nixon and Sean Kezer wrapped up Confer after a 1-yard gain.
However, McNeil atoned for two second-quarter fumbles by outleaping Jerry Seeley for a fade pass in the back of the end zone for the tying score with :54 left.
“I didn’t go for the ball like I should have,” Seeley said. “I just went up and tried to get him instead of the ball and he just made the good catch.”
Jesse Phillips drilled the all-important extra point through the uprights to separate the teams by a point.
As demoralizing as the score was, South Tahoe didn’t pout as its final possession started at the 25. The Vikings quickly moved into field goal range as Hurwitz peeled off a 13-yard run on a draw and Immanuel Williams caught a pair of 17-yard receptions. But after Hurwitz was dropped at the Wooster 26 after a 2-yard again, Uppendahl quick spiked the ball to bring up third down.
“These kids have character, and as you saw they fight to the very end,” Jaureguito said.
Within Romero’s field goal range, Jaureguito elected to go with one more play and it proved costly.
With no time-outs remaining, Uppendahl threw the ball across the field to Seeley, who was running an out pattern to the sideline. But as Seeley turned for the ball, Wooster cornerback Lopez had already made an early break on the ball and picked off the pass.
“Every short pattern their DBs were coming up really fast. Before I even got to do my out, he just flew up and made a good play on it,” Seeley said.
Before the play began, Lopez thought the Vikings would try something deep.
“I didn’t know they were going to throw an out,” Lopez said. “As I started to break, all off a sudden their receiver cut to the side. I saw the quarterback in my side view and saw him throw my way. It was like it came in slow motion, and I just picked it.”
Lopez returned the interception – Uppendahl’s fifth of the game – to the Vikings 20.
“All we had to do is get it to the middle of the field and kick it and we didn’t do it, and I take full responsibility for it,” Jaureguito said. “Every day in practice we put him in a pressure situation to kick a field goal and then we get the chance in the game and we don’t do it. That’s not very good coaching on my part.”
Wooster, which hasn’t lost to STHS since the 1991 zone title game, looked as if it would blow out the VIkings in the second quarter. The Colts capitalized on interceptions by James and Joe Stecker to set up 4- and 10-yard scoring runs by Stallings.
But the Vikings stormed back behind special team fumble recoveries by Garrett McIntyre and Jeremy Wilson. McIntyre covered a McNeil fumble at the Viking 31 and three plays later Uppendahl hit Williams on a slant for a 64-yard score.
On the ensuing kickoff, Williams pried the ball loose from McNeil and Wilson pounced on the loose ball at the Wooster 12. Uppendahl went behind center Matt Ring to score the tying touchdown with 4:48 to go before halftime.
Uppendahl capped a 69-yard drive with a 1-yard TD plunge to open the third quarter as the Vikings went ahead 20-14. But Romero’s kick sailed right following a high snap.
Uppendahl, who ran for two touchdowns and connected on a 64-yard second-quarter with Williams, finished with 190 yards passing.
“Jarred was just not on today, and we knew that was going to happen sooner of later. It has to. When you put the ball in the air as much as we have, then there’s going to be a day that comes up where he’s not on. I’m not blaming him, though,” Jaureguito said.
With a 1-1 division record, STHS still has an outside shot at first place but must win its remaining three games – two of which will be on the road at Carson on Thursday and Hug the final week of the regular season.
“There’s a lot left to the season, but we’ve got to bounce back,” Jaureguito said.
WOOSTER 21, STHS 20
Wooster 0 14 0 7 -21
STHS 0 14 6 0 -20
W-Stallings 4 run (Phillips kick), :39
W-Stallings 10 run (Phillips kick), 2:34
ST-Williams 64 pass from Uppendahl (Romero kick), 5:24
ST-Uppendahl 1 run (Romero kick) 7:12
ST-Uppendahl 1 run (kick failed), 2:48
W-McNeil 11 pass from James (Phillips kick), 11:06
First downs 14/12
Passing yards 52/190
Punts -average 6-37.2/4-34
Kick Returns 4-94/3-48
Punt Returns 2-45/2-4
PASSING – Wooster, James 7-18-0-52. South Tahoe, Uppendahl 9-21-5-190.
RUSHING – Stallings 19-103, Confer 10-80, Dupree 5-10, James 5-9, Lopez 1-(-1), Barreras 1-(-2). South Tahoe, Hurwitz 23-128, Uppendahl 5-(-1).
RECEIVING – Wooster, McNeil 3-34, Backlund 2-13, Milan 1-11, Confer 1-(-6). South Tahoe, Williams 6-139, Hickey 2-44, Seeley 1-7.
Missed Field Goals: None.
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