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Princeton gives defending champs a scare
The inspired play of Colten Strubel, quarterback of the defending Northern Section 8-man champions Butte Valley, saved the Bulldogs from a dramatic upset on Friday against host Princeton.
Butte Valley had to fend off a furious second-half rally from a gritty Eagles team determined to get payback after being outscored 96-20 in the two games between the teams last season.
Behind 22-14 with about three minutes remaining, senior Rod Angus gave Princeton hope when he stepped in front of a Bulldogs receiver at the 1-yard-line for an interception.
Needing to drive 99 yards with one timeout and about three minutes to go, the Eagles went to work. Sophomore running back Oscar Espinoza carried the ball seven consecutive plays before he threw an incompletion on a reverse pass with 42 seconds left and 54 yards to go for a score.
Princeton used its final timeout and quarterback Lucas Hubbard found Angus for a leaping catch down to the Bulldogs' 30 on the next play. The Eagles took three shots to the end zone but great defense by Butte Valley closed the door.
"We were looking for revenge but we played hard and we did good - it just didn't work out quite the way we wanted," Angus said. "We just have to be more pumped up coming into the game because we came in a little flat."
Despite the loss, the positives far outweighed the negatives for the Eagles.
For one, the second-half rally came as three of the team's better players; Espinoza, Cesar Chocoteco and Eduardo Valencia, battled cramps. Two of Butte Valley's scores were a direct result of Herculean efforts by Struble, the reigning Northern Section 8-man football MVP.
"We kept up with the last year's champions and we were suffering from cramps most of the second half. That just gave us confidence for the next game out," Valencia said.
Leading 8-0 after the first quarter, Struble escaped the grasp of two defenders deep in the backfield and found his receiver for a 32-yard pass down to the Princeton 15 to set up the second score of the game midway through the second quarter.
The Eagles offense marched down the field on the first drive of the second half and Espinoza made it 14-6 with an 11-yard run to the right side.
Butte Valley quickly responded on another incredible effort by Strubel, who chased down a bad snap from the Bulldogs 33, which rolled down inside the Bulldogs' 10 before he scooped it up. He then made three Princeton defenders miss and rambled the length of the field for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion gave the Bulldogs a 22-6 lead.
The Bulldogs attempted an onside kick but Juan Falcon dove on the ball and the Eagles marched 50 yards for a touchdown. To get there, Angus out-leapt a defender to catch a 15-yard pass on a 4th-and-6 to the Butte Valley four-yard-line.
"I just saw the ball and jumped up and went for it. If I get hit I get hit. It didn't really register in my mind. I just felt the ball hit and tried to turn around," Angus said.
Valencia moved the ball to the one-yard-line but had to join Espinoza on the sideline with cramps, forcing Chocoteco to move into the backfield from the offensive line. Chocoteco made the most of his one carry, punching across the line for a touchdown. Hubbard kept the ball for the two-point conversion with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
Butte Valley had a chance to put the game out of reach but the Eagles defense halted the drive on the Princeton 10 at the end of the third quarter. The Eagles offense kept moving the ball, chipping away four or five yards at a time and drove down to the Bulldogs' 25 before an interception at the seven ended the drive.
The Bulldogs took a reverse 69 yards to the Princeton 12, but Angus kept the Eagles' chances alive once again with the interception at the one to set up the final drive of the game.
"That was nice to see, and a couple big plays when we needed it just to stay in it. Getting out of bad field position and critical first downs, we made a couple fourth downs to keep drives alive. A lot of good things came out of today," Princeton coach Bryan Lex said.
Angus caught three passes for 61 yards from Hubbard. Espinoza rushed 24 times for 102 yards and Valencia added 20 carries for 101 yards.
Strubel rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and passed for another 76 yards for Butte Valley. The Bulldogs out-gained Princeton 337 yards to 261 yards.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com.