Above: Maranatha coach Joel Murphy (middle wearing blue sweatshirt) addresses both teams after an epic showdown.
PASADENA — What a night if you happened to be at Maranatha High School on Friday night. The game lasted nearly five hours and needed five overtimes before Cerritos Valley Christian prevailed 70-64 in an epic showdown that will be remembered for years to come.
This undoubtedly is the longest, most thrilling game I have ever been a part of in my decade-long career as a sportswriter. Believe us when we say that we tried extremely hard to get this story to be in Saturday’s paper, but that just wasn’t going to happen, not when the Star-News’ absolute deadline is 11:10 p.m. and the game didn’t come to an end until 11:30 p.m. But don’t worry, we’ll have something in Sunday’s paper so that you all have a keepsake to remember. I know that doesn’t seem all that enticing right now given that the Minutemen came away losing, but years down the road this will be a game you’ll look back and remember it for what it was — an epic smackdown.
The first half lasted exactly two hours, and if you were at the game you saw just about everything — explosive offense, exciting defense, an offensive shootout with huge playmakers all over the field.
What makes this game even more difficult for Maranatha (5-3, 0-2) besides the fact it lost, is that the Minutemen now have to hope for an at-large playoff berth out of the Olympic League. You must understand that this isn’t a game that Maranatha players should hang their heads over, but they did because the playoff hopes grew somewhat dimmer with another loss.
Maranatha coach Joel Murphy didn’t hide the fact the Minutemen are now aiming for an at-large berth, and given that the Minutemen have gotten their two biggest competitors out of the way, Maranatha is likely to gain that at-large berth if it takes care of business down the road.
Maranatha led 17-7 with 9:07 left in the second quarter before Cerritos Valley Christian (5-3, 2-0) stormed back to take a 26-24 lead with 1:56 left in the second quarter. After that, there were four lead changes before Tyler Boer connected on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fronke with 36 seconds left to tie the game at 40 and force overtime.
It was Trevor Rodriguez who finally came through on a broken play to score from 25 yards out to lift the visiting Crusaders to an improbable 70-64 win in the fifth overtime period.
Maranatha’s Mark Jebbia connected for a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Elffers to take a 47-40 lead in the first overtime period. Cerritos Valley Christian responded with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fronke to Darrell Bush. The Crusaders maintained possession in the second overtime period, and that’s when Fronke ran one in from 12 yards out to make it 54-47.
Maranatha didn’t waste time in the second overtime as Jeremy Major caught a brilliant 19-yard touchdown pass from Elffers to tie the game at 54. Facing fourth and five at the nine, the Minutemen opted for a 26-yard field goal, and Matt Marbach was perfect, giving Maranatha a 57-54 lead.
That put the pressure on the Crusaders, and they didn’t disappoint. Facing fourth and 10 at the 25, Cerritos Valley Christian took the safe route and attempted a 42 yard field goal, which Boer converted with ease to tie the game at 57.
Fronke then connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bush to take a 64-57 lead in the third overtime. Maranatha faced fourth and inches at the 4 before Elffers got the first down on a quarterback sneak. He then ran it in from 3 yards out to tie the game at 64.
Maranatha missed a 42-yard field goal on its next possession, allowing the Crusaders to bring the game to an end after Rodriguez’s touchdown run from 25 yards.
“That was the most ugly (slash) beautiful game I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Cerritos Valley Christian coach Erick Streelman said. “What time is it? …. with the injury timeout and overitme, these guys have to be gassed.”
When asked where this game ranks among the many he’s coached, Streelman didn’t hesitate.
“I think it’s the best game I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Five overtimes, down to the wire. We couldn’t sop them and they couldn’t stop us.”
For Murphy, it wasn’t quite the same feeling.
“You knew someone had to (lose),” Murphy said, “but I kinda wish it wasn’t us.
“We thought it was going to go back and forth, but we had every opportunity to finish it with a field goal and gave them a touchdown. we just didn’t finish and that’s what it comes to.
“Now we have to win the last two games outright to give us in the right position (to make the playoffs).”
Maranatha had a chance to put the game on ice with 58 seconds left in the game leading 40-33. The Maranatha defense came up big when it stopped the Crusaders on fourth and 4 at their own 18. The Minutemen took over on downs with 1:51 left in the game. But it wouldn’t be long before Maranatha faced a fourth and 7 at the Cerritos’ 15.
That’s when Maranatha took a timeout and settled on a 32-yard field goal attempt. The attempt, however, was wide left. That left 52 seconds left on the clock and plenty of time for Cerritos Valley Christian to come up with something. It wouldn’t take long. In fact, two plays later that’s when Boer caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Fronke. Boer’s PAT tied the game at 40.
Cerritos Valley Christian attempted a pooch onside kick, which Valley Christian recovered. Two plays later, Josh Jones recorded his second interception to give the Minutemen the ball back at their own 5. But Maranatha took a knee to let the clock run out and take its chances in overtime, but to no avail.
Elffers did just about everything he could to keep the Minutemen within reach. Jones also did his part with more than several key plays late in the game. Elffers completed 25 of 45 passes for 460 yards and four touchdowns in regulation while Jones caught eigh passes for 155 yards and one touchdown. Major caught touchdown passes for 10, 70 and 19 yards while Mark Jebbia added two from 16 and 14 yards, respectively.
The Minutemen defense also made big plays despite what the final box score may have to say. Adam Harr recorded two sacks and the Maranatha defense recorded five interceptions — two by R.J. Straker, two by Jones and one from Connor Pendley.
The game went long because of an injury delay midway through the first quarter. Austin Batiste fell on his right wrist and as a result broke it badly. He passed out and appeared to be in shock after suffering the injury. He lay on the field more 10 minutes before he attempted to get up and sit on a cart. It wasn’t until 32 minutes had passed that paramedics arrived to take him to a nearby hospital. Later in the game, LeWayne Wright suffered a concussion and he also was taken to the hospital.
It should be noted that Maranatha’s Omar Younger and Chris Cornell were knocked out of the game in the first half. Undoubtedly their presence would have been of big help for the Minutemen.
Maranatha took advantage of three turnovers which resulted in two touchdowns and a field goal. But each time the Minutemen appeared to pad their lead, the Crusaders came back to make it interesting, all but assuring fans that a shootout was in the works.