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Bears survive scare in Durham
DURHAM - Andy Corona chased down Durham High quarterback Brycen Buck as time ran out, sealing a 21-20 win Friday in Durham and redeemed himself for a late fumble which nearly cost the Pierce football team the game.
"I was so happy, I can't even explain it. I was just really, really happy. It was a really big relief," Corona said.
Durham scored with 16.1 seconds left after recovering a fumble by Corona, but a missed extra point forced the Trojans to attempt an onside kick, which they recovered, and set up two desperation plays before the Bears could celebrate.
Pierce (7-0, 2-0 Sacramento Valley League) fell behind 14-0 against a Durham team celebrating its homecoming, but scored 21 unanswered points to take a lead midway through the fourth quarter.
"It's just when you come out flat stuff like that happens. You're down 14-0 but you've got to somehow rally back and get your teammates back in it. You've got to be a leader and we were able to pull through, we stepped it up quarter by quarter," Corona said.
The Trojans (3-4, 0-2 SVL) scored on a 22-yard touchdown run by Ryley Haugh in the first quarter and Haugh added a 5-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
The Bears cut the lead in half on a 19-yard scoring strike from Nate Smith to a diving Oscar Sanchez with 1:32 left in the first half, and tied it on a 12-yard touchdown run by Joey Hernandez with a 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Hernandez was once again a hero after the Bears defense forced a Trojans punt when he slipped around the left side and juked three defenders down the Bears' sideline for a 26-yard touchdown run, taking the lead with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter.
"We just started bringing it to them and our guys in the backfield started having to read holes, figure their things out, we had to change up what plays we're going to run," Pierce lineman Chas Benton said.
The Trojans drove 44 yards before the defense forced three consecutive incomplete passes and a turnover on downs on the Pierce 40-yard line.
Then disaster struck.
Ryley Southam dove on a rare fumble by Corona on the first play of the drive that gave the Trojans the ball back at the Bears' 37-yard line with 5:40 remaining.
Durham converted on a fourth-and-nine on a 14-yard pass from Buck to Jake Wiley down to the Bears' 21-yard line, and two plays later Buck found Luke Mullarkey on another 14-yard pass to set up a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line.
The Bears defense refused to budge and Oscar Sanchez batted down a pass in the end zone to set up a 4th down, but a defensive pass interference on the next play gave the Trojans a first-and-goal down at the 2.5-yard line.
"We came out big-headed. We really got put back into place and we saw what a good team can do to us, and off of that we really had to start playing smash-mouth football," Benton said.
Once again the Bears defense earned its stripes, pushing Durham back for a fourth-and-eight, but Buck's propensity for the dramatic once again came to the forefront when he threaded a pass into the out-stretched hands of a diving Zach Marks in the corner of the end zone to pull the Trojans within one point with 16.1 seconds left on the clock.
With the Trojans' homecoming crowd on its feet, Tyler Hughes, who harassed the Bears offense all night from his defensive line position, missed the extra point wide-right.
But even then, Durham wasn't quite done. Hughes placed the ensuing onside kick perfectly between the Bears' hands team and Thomas Ratana dove on the ball, giving the Trojans one last chance to drive 49-yards with 15.1 seconds on the clock and no time-outs.
Buck's first pass fell incomplete and Corona ended the threat, forcing Buck to scramble to his right where he slipped trying to evade the pressure from Corona.
"We went 0-44 on them last homecoming and we knew they would bring it just as hard, if not harder, this year. But we stepped it up, we worked for it, we knew they were coming for us this time," Benton said.
Corona wasn't the only senior captain to have a rough game for the Bears. Cornerback Nate Smith was burned for a 56-yard pass on a third-and-12 that led to the Trojans' second touchdown of the game, and linebacker Preston Smith had a sure interception deflect out of his hands directly to a Durham receiver for a 4-yard gain on the first drive of the second half.
Nate Smith completed 4 of 8 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Corona carried the ball 17 times for 72 yards, Hernandez carried five times for 46 yards and two touchdowns, and Hayden Kalfsbeek had 57 yards receiving. Benton made two sacks, Margarito Meza intercepted a pass and Preston Smith led the Bears with 12 tackles.
"It's typical, we don't play very well at Durham for some reason," Pierce coach Scott Burnum said.
The Bears lost the previous four games to the Trojans, but were able to reverse their fortunes once the running game began to work later in the contest.
"Our offense is our defense, it was the first six games. Then we started moving the ball and that got them tired and our defense played better," Burnum said.
Pierce travels to Trinity on Friday to take on the Wolves (4-3, 1-1 SVL), lost to Live Oak 35-27 last week.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.