By Aram Tolegian
There was never a doubt. The Arroyo High School football team was going for the glory. Having just scored in overtime to get within one point of Rancho Mirage in overtime of the CIF Southern Section Division 12 championship on Saturday night, Knights head coach Jim Singiser didn’t waver. The veteran head coach sent his offense out on the field for one play to make history, and sophomore quarterback Ernesto Camacho found receiver Devin Knight, who scooped the sinking pass just before hit the turf for a successful 2-point conversion and a 35-34 win.
“That’s how we do things in El Monte,” Singiser said. “We’re down a couple guys on defense and we just thought if we get down there, why screw around and exchange (possessions)? We’re 21/2 yards away from a CIF championship. I like our guys and 2 or 3 yards.”
With the win, Arroyo improved to 13-1 and brought home the school’s first CIF championship since 1986. The Knights will now move on to the CIF State regional bowl playoffs. They will find out next week’s opponent on Sunday. Rancho Mirage finished 11-3.
The two teams entered overtime tied 27-27 after a grueling second half. Arroyo’s defense was obviously still feeling the effects, because Rattlers running back Kyle Whitfield went 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the extra period.
Arroyo took a little more time, but the Knights got within one on a sneak by Camacho to make it 34-33. Singiser called timeout, not to decide whether to go for two but to solidify what the play was. Camacho took the snap and headed right before firing a pass to Knight, who had come open in the front right corner of the end zone. Still, though, Knight had to secure the tricky catch while falling to the ground.
“I was thinking ‘don’t drop it,’ ” said a tearful Knight. “I just had to zone all the crowd out and make sure I caught that ball. It was probably a foot off the ground, at most. It was an amazing feeling. I just started crying. Best feeling in the world.”
Added Camacho: “I knew we were going for two. He (Singiser) wanted to win the game right there. I just threw (the pass) out there. I kinda threw it soft, but he (Knight) came up with it and we won the game.”
Rancho Mirage appeared to be in good position to win the game in regulation. The Rattlers used a time-consuming drive to get inside in the Arroyo 10-yard line with just over four minutes to play. But a holding penalty stalled things out and star kicker Daniel Whelan, who figures to sign with a major college in February, missed a 35-yard field goal wide to the right.
Strangely, it was Arroyo kicker Jesse Ortiz who had the big night. The junior boomed a pair of 41-yard field goals in the second half, the second one tying the score with 10:08 to play.
Arroyo controlled the first half despite being the visibly smaller team. The speedy Knights were able to burn the Rattlers’ defense thanks to another big showing by Camacho, who fired two touchdown passes in the first half to Yezdan Marquez. Arroyo led 21-13 at halftime.
A blocked punt that the Rattlers picked up for a touchdown made things closer in the third quarter. Rancho Mirage took its first lead on a 9-yard touchdown run by Whitefield late in the quarter.
In overtime with Arroyo trailing 34-27, I went live on Periscope to capture the final moments and it couldn’t of been more dramatic with Devin Knight catching the do-or-die two-point conversion in the corner from quarterback Ernesto Camacho for the game-winner, 35-34 over Rancho Mirage for the Division 12 title and Knights’ first since 1986. Watch it, and the celebration that follows. Great interview toward the end with coach Jim Singiser and Camacho.
THURSDAY’S QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE
Top Half at Sierra Vista High
Schurr 67, Northview 54
Damien 98, Don Lugo 31 Bottom Half at Covina High
Colony 80, Covina 45
Monrovia 52, Keppel 39 Friday’s At Northview High School
Damien 79, Schurr 54
Colony 80, Monrovia 39 Saturday’s Championship
At Covina HS
Damien 97, Colony 80
Changing point? It appeared Tyler Nevens was down at the 2 and Los Altos would have a chance to finish the late third-quarter drive and take a 14-7 lead, but officials ruled he fumbled the ball into the endzone and Paraclete recovered. That led to Paraclete taking a 14-7 lead and Los Altos having to rally to tie and eventually fall, 21-14.
Tyler Nevens fumbled, they ruled it fumbled through the end zone, if you slow it looks like his knee was down, huge call, Paraclete ball pic.twitter.com/JTjcPxWF12
I periscoped the final mintue with Los Altos trailing 28-24. Watch the dramatic finish with Khayman King hauling in the game-winning 19 yard TD pass from Kody Olmos with no time left for a 30-28 Los Altos win.
Murrieta Valley 63, La Habra 42 Division 3
La Mirada 36, Los Alamitos 20 Division 4
Sierra Canyon 42, Charter Oak 19 Division 6
Los Altos 30, Long Beach Wilson 28 Division 7
Norte Vista 21, St. Paul 7 Division 11
Valley View 42, Montebello 7 Division 12
Arroyo 70, Segerstrom 21 Division 13
Rancho Christian 42, South El Monte 28
Next week’s Divisional championships
Edison at La Mirada, Friday, 7:30 p.m. Division 6
Paraclete at Los Altos, Friday, 7:30 p.m. Division 12
Rancho Mirage at Arroyo, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
La Mirada coach Mike Moschetti is all class, watch