Down 42-27 early in the fourth quarter, to say things weren’t looking good for the Santa Clara Bruins would be an understatement. Not only was Santa Clara struggling to contain Cupertino running back Alex Bruckhaus, but a controversial fourth-down ball spot had just gone in favor of the Pioneers. The Bruins defense had appeared to get a much-needed stop of Bruckhaus and the Cupertino offense on a fourth-and-short situation around midfield. It looked like the referees gave the Pioneers an extremely beneficial ball placement. After the chain gang came out for a measurement, the Pioneers had earned the first down by less than a foot.
Down two touchdowns and with every reason to be demoralized by their bad luck, the Bruins didn’t give in. Even without the services of star wide receiver Nick Garcia (out with a foot injury), quarterback Christopher Brown, tailback Erik Ketton and receiver Richard Corona led the Bruins to an improbable comeback.
All game long Cupertino pooch-kicked their kickoffs as they wanted to avoid giving Ketton the opportunity for a long return. Therefore the Bruins once again started their next drive around the 40-yard line. Two clutch quarterback runs from Brown of 10 and 18 yards set the table for a 25-yard touchdown pass down the seem to Corona, pulling Santa Clara within nine. The Bruins would go empty backfield for the two-point conversion attempt. Brown hit Corona again on a quick out just inside the endzone to pull within seven.
On their following onside-kick attempt, the Bruins once again were on the wrong side of a controversial call. It initially appeared as if Bailey Mungaray’s dribble-down-the-middle attempt was legally recovered by the Bruins. No flags were thrown immediately after the play until the refs convened and ruled that the ball had been illegally touched by the Bruins before going the requisite 10 yards.
Cupertino would take over around midfield and a 30-yard run on first down put them deep in Santa Clara territory. Two plays later though the Santa Clara defense forced a fumble, coming away with their biggest turnover of the season.
Now backed up near their own end zone, the Bruins offense quickly faced a do-or-die, fourth-and-six situation. And what did Brown do for them? Brown hit a streaking Corona deep down the middle of the field with a perfect pass for a 55-yard gain. Later in the drive Brown drew the Cupertino defense offside on a fourth-and-three play to keep hope alive. A few plays later Brown was once again in the endzone on a quarterback keeper to pull the Bruins within an extra-point of tying the game with just 2:37 remaining.
Initially it looked as if the Bruins would kick the extra point, but Head Coach Hank Roberts changed his mind and chose to go for the win. It was a decision that may have been made easier since the injured Garcia has also been the Bruins’ place kicker all season.
“Andrew Calderon, our defensive coordinator, he does a phenomenal job with our defense and he kept telling me to go for two, go for two,” recalled coach Roberts. “I was like no, you gotta stop them. But they went into triple overtime against Fremont and won it and then double overtime against Mountain View and won that. So on that last drive I looked at my wide receiver coach and said ‘screw this’ I’m going for two. We ain’t kicking the extra point and taking this bad boy to overtime.”
The Bruins would run the exact same play call as their previous two-point conversion and Brown and Corona delivered again in the clutch, converting and putting the Bruins up 43-42.
“That’s what I’m talking about! That’s what I’m talking about! That’s our coach right there!” chimed a pumped-up Seth Everett on his coach’s initiative on going for the win. “This is what we worked all year for, waking up at five, five thirty getting to school, we didn’t work this hard for the season to end tonight!”
The Santa Clara defense would come up with one last big stop as defensive back Albert Leal Jr. broke up a pass on fourth down.
“I’m so happy, I couldn’t even watch on that last play,” joked Brown on the game-clinching pass breakup. “I just listened to see what would happen.”
With the victory, the Bruins are now champions of the El Camino League and have earned a spot in the CCS playoffs.