Elation turned to despair in the final minute of play last Friday night in Colusa after the RedHawk defense had made an impressive stand, the offense was unable to run out the clock and gave visiting U-Prep another chance which they then turned into a game-winning field goal with eight ticks left on the clock.
It was the only time the Panthers led in the game and marked a second half comeback where they scored 17 unanswered points to steal a 23-21 win.
An error filled evening got off to an ominous start for the RedHawks, who on the initial play of the game failed to pick up the ball on the kickoff, allowing the Panthers to recover inside Colusa territory at the 30-yard line.
Nevertheless, the RedHawks came away unscathed, thwarting the Panthers’ drive when defensive back Edgar Garcia picked off a pass on a fourth down play.
Although the RedHawks couldn’t capitalize, Garcia gave them another chance after he made his second interception of the night with 5:25 left in the opening period.
From their own 34 yard line, the RedHawks then proceeded to march 76 yards in nine plays, capping the drive with a one-yard plunge by junior Anthony Berry to take a 7-0 lead with just over a minute and a half in the first quarter.
However it wouldn’t last long as U-Prep’s Damon Uribe returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to even the score at 7-7.
In response, the RedHawk defense stiffened, keeping the Panthers at bay for the remainder of the half and allowing the offense to strike for two scores in the second quarter.
The first came when quarterback Riley Stice hit receiver Victor Hernandez in stride for a 70-yard touchdown, then with just 30 seconds left before half, Manny Morales delivered from six yards out to give the RedHawks a 21-7 lead at intermission.
Hernandez had a big night for the RedHawks catching five balls for 103 yards, while Stice finished 8-12 passing for 169 yards.
As the second half opened with the RedHawks sporting a 14-point advantage, they seemed to have the game under control, but such was not to be the case.
U-Prep stormed back scoring twice, although it missed a critical extra point, which permitted Colusa to maintain a narrow one-point advantage at 21-20.
Yet it would all come down to the final 56 seconds after the RedHawk defense stopped the Panthers cold, forcing a field goal attempt that was blocked by Berry, to give the ball back to Colusa and seemingly clinch the win.
But unfortunately for the RedHawks, they made a critical error, going out of bounds on third down, which stopped the clock ahead of a punt.
When the punt was partially blocked, the Panthers got the ball on the Colusa 40 and advanced to just outside the 30-yard line with 18 seconds remaining.
From there the Panthers ran a play and were awarded extra yardage when the RedHawks were penalized for having too many men on the field, giving U-Prep a chance at the game winning field goal which they ultimately converted.
It was the only lead the Panthers held in the game, and in the end, the only one that mattered.
Penalties, turnovers and other mental errors would cost the RedHawks a win, although there was no lack of effort on their part.
As a result after the game Coach Matt Jessee focused on the positive aspects and looked forward to this week’s challenge.
“Our kids played hard and made big plays throughout the game. I was proud of the effort and the team is excited to begin league play,” Jessee said.
Christian Lopez finished with a team high six tackles for Colusa on defense while on offense, Morales ended with 62 yards on 11 carries and Berry ran six times for 53 yards.
Colusa (2-2), must now regroup and prepare for their Sacramento Valley League opener against county rival Pierce next week.