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Braves battle back to top RedHawks
When Colusa High's Jose Santana picked off an Austin Burbank pass on the RedHawks' 5-yard line with 6:59 left and Colusa holding a 21-14 lead, Burbank thought his season and career were over.
"I threw that and thought, 'Here I am a senior, and my season is done," said Burbank, who took over at quarterback after junior Ricky Pompa got dinged up earlier in the quarter.
Pompa and Burbank would both be heard from again as momentum quickly shifted on the very next play.
With Colusa quarterback Hunter Mobley back in the gun, the snap wasn't completed cleanly and in the scrum for the loose ball it rolled out of the end zone for a safety. Not only did it give the Braves two points cutting the lead to 21-16, but Hamilton would also get the ball back on a free kick.
Theron Fumasi returned the kick to the Hamilton 46 and the Braves were on the move, until the Colusa defense dug in its cleats and the Braves were down to a fourth-and-9 on the 23.
Despite a strong crosswind that hampered both teams' passing games, Pompa took the snap and rolled to his right, and then to his right some more to buy time. Finally he threw back across the grain and found Burbank wide-open in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
"Nobody saw me," gasped am exuberant Burbank. "The pass took forever and that wind took it probably 10 yards from where I was standing."
Hamilton coach Ryan Bentz admitted the result of the play was pure improvisation.
"You don't draw that up, that's just big players being big players," the coach said.
Colusa got the ball back on their own 20 following the kickoff but was pushed backwards by the Braves defense and a holding penalty, until a fumble on a hook-and-lateral made it fourth-and-31 on the 2.
Colusa was unable to get a receiver open on the next play and the Braves took the ball over on downs, and picked up enough yardage that they could take the victory formation and kneel out the clock for the 22-21 win and a berth in the Division III championship on Wednesday.
"It was a one-point game but it's really not about one play," said Colusa coach Paul Theriault. "They played a great game and we played a great game - they just came out on top."
The Braves opened the scoring on their first drive of the game when Burbank scored on a 3-yard carry, but the RedHawks tied it in the second quarter when Alex Belmontes punched it on from 2 yards out on a possession that began with a fumble recovery by Santana.
Estavan Frias broke a 24-yard run up the middle for a TD in the second quarter to put Colusa up 14-7 at the break.
Andrew Shippelhoute tied the game up again for the Braves with a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter, but Belmontes' 6-yard score on the first play of the fourth period gave the RedHawks back the lead.
"This team overcame lots of adversity," said Theriault of his 9-3 RedHawks. "They set the bar really high for future teams. We wanted to set the bar as high as we could."
Hamilton improved to 9-3 and will host sixth-seeded Winters (8-4) for the championship Wednesday.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.