Football: Last-minute touchdown by SD Mesa results in 23-22 loss

Cerritos football surrendered last-minute touchdown and lost to San Diego Mesa
Cerritos football surrendered last-minute touchdown and lost to San Diego Mesa

After the Cerritos College football team stopped host San Diego Mesa at their own 22-yard line on downs late in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Falcons would go on to post a 22-17 win. Taking over possession with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter, the Falcons would throw a short pass, then an incompletion and finally a short run, which left the team at the 19-yard line and faced with fourth down. Freshman kicker Brandon Petruescu (La Mirada HS), who had converted three-of-three field goals on the night, had his 36-yard attempt blocked, with the Olympians recovering the ball at taking over possession at their own 13-yard line with 1:42 remaining and no timeouts.

The loss to San Diego Mesa snapped a nine-game winning streak against the Olympians, who hadn't defeated the Falcons since a 22-19 score in 1989.

Olympians quarterback Asante Hartzog, who had only thrown for 89 yards until that point, went 4-for-4 on the drive and accounted for all 87 yards, which included a 17-yard scoring strike to Taj Broomfield with :54 seconds remaining.

The Falcons had one last chance, and after a fourth down sack was negated due to a San Diego Mesa holding penalty, the team had one untimes down to try and win the game. In came Petruescu, who had one last shot to win the game, but his 62-yard attempt was short and Cerritos (4-3, 1-1) suffered a 23-22 loss.

Prior to that last series, the Cerritos defense had done a great job of keeping the Olympians offense at bay with their pressure up front. On the possession before the game-winning drive, a pair of pass plays were defended beautifully by Jeremiah Flanagan (Huntington Beach HS) and DeMario King (Los Alamitos HS), while sophomore defensive lineman Anthony Shipton (Villa Park HS) forced a bad pass with his pressure and freshman defensive lineman Logan Applewhite (Cathedral HS) recorded a sack on third down.

Both teams opened the game driving the ball downfield, with SD Mesa recording a touchdown and the Falcons receiving a 20-yard field goal from Petruescu. On the next Cerritos drive, a roughing the kicker penalty on Petruescu during his punt attempt kept their drive alive, and it was capped by a one-yard Hinckley Ropati (Downey HS) touchdown for a 10-7 Falcon lead.

The defense came up with a turnover on the next Olympians possession, as a bad snap fumble was recovered by sophomore Etieni Valele (Norwalk HS) deep in Mesa territory. Although the offense stalled, Petruescu was there to convert a 24-yard field goal and a 13-7 lead. San Diego Mesa took the lead at 14-13 on the third play of their ensuing drive when Ranse Garner raced untouched up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown.

On their first possession of the second half, freshman quarterback TJ McMahon (Servite HS) found sophomore wide receiver C.J. Parks (Mater Dei HS) for a short pass, but it turned into a 38-yard gain after Parks made several moves to get around would-be tacklers. Four plays later, Parks pulled in a 21-yard pass for a touchdown and a 19-13 lead after the extra point was blocked. That would turn out to be the potential tying point by the conclusion of the game.

McMahon would end up going 29-for-51 for 311 yards, with Parks pulling in 10 passes for 142 yards, while sophomore Brandon Jones (Heritage, VA HS) and sophomore running back Carl Odom (West Jordan, UT HS) each collected five pass receptions. Odom also added 42 yards on the ground, with Ropati leading the ground game with 78 yards on 17 totes. Cerritos ran 30 more plays that San Diego Mesa (87-to-57) and finished with 101 more total yards.

Freshman linebacker Victor Clanton (JSerra HS) led the defense with seven tackles, with freshman defensive end Elijah Dolphin (Long Beach Poly HS) posting six stops, which included 2 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack and a quarterback hurry. Shipton (three tackles) and Applewhite (two tackles) also had one sack.

Cerritos will host Mt. San Antonio College at 6:00 p.m. next Saturday.