By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
SAN GABRIEL — There was no time for San Gabriel High Schlool defensive lineman Hunter Garcia to think.
Twenty-five seconds after San Dimas’ Devante Brown scored on a 4-yard sweep, the Saints were lined up and going for the two-point conversion and the go-ahead score.
But Garcia stepped into the hole that the Saints offensive line had created on the touchdown run and Garcia stopped the exact same running play to lead the Matadors to a 29-28 victory in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley semifinals on a very cold, but not windy, Saturday night.
“I read the block and I knew it was going to be a game changer,” Garcia said. “On the play before I got my bell rung and I knew I had to do something. I did and I knew we had the gamer locked after that,.”
Brown fell about 9 inches short of giving the Saints the lead.
San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow said the Saints had decided to go for two points nine minutes before Brown scored, with 2:23 to play.
“We weren’t stopping them and we’re on their home field,” he said. “There was no question we hade to go for two to win the game.
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“Our player tried hard to get in, He came up just short. They had the same defensive alignment, too. That’s how it goes.”
The Matadors advance to the championship game for the first time in eight years. They will play Monrovia next weekend.
It is a seemingly unlikely finale. San Dimas defeated San Gabriel, 59-6, on the same field in Week 3 of the season. The Saints were aiming to reach the championship game for the second time in three years.
San Gabriel lost its first four of five games, but has not lost since. San Dimas finishes 10-3.
“It’s a Cinderella story,” Garcia said.
San Dimas seemed to have it under wraps, too. The Saints led, 16-7 at the half and 22-14 midway through the third quarter.
A tipped pass got the Matadors back in the game. So did 17 San Dimas penalties, of which three resulted in touchdown plays being called back.
San Gabriel quarterback Andy Guerrero’s pass to Joey Mayorga was tipped by defensive back Cody McNeal and Mayorga got the tip and scored on a 32-yard play to tie the game at 22 with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Saints, who for the most part rushed the ball at ease through the Matadors’ middle, gaining 356 yards, were stopped at the Matador 32 on an illegal procedure penalty and incomplete pass on fourth down.
Guerrero, who was held to 3 yards rushing in the first half, but finished with 95, carried the ball time and again up the middle. On fourth-and-3, he hit Isai Frnandez on a five-yard pass and then went 18 yards to Mayorga to the Saints 2. Mayorga then carried the ball into the end zone and David Rivera’s extra-point kick was enough to force the Saints to go for two.