“We’re going to use this loss as fuel to try and go win a State Championship.”
That was the response from Wilcox quarterback Alex Adame after his Chargers lost a 33-28 heartbreaker against Menlo Atherton in the CCS Division I Championship last Friday. Wilcox stormed out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but in the end, six turnovers — including four in the fourth quarter — aided the Bears comeback as the Chargers became unplugged.
“We put our defense in bad spots, we just kind of gave it away there,” admitted Wilcox Head Coach Paul Rosa. “We did a great job, kind of surprised them early, they got caught with the speed of our offense. But from there, when they caught up to us, we never caught up to their speed.”
While the Bears did break some big plays against the Chargers, the Wilcox defense played a tremendous game for allowing 33 points. The defense forced a Bears fumble on the game’s first play from scrimmage, setting up a short 20-yard drive that was capped off by a six-yard Paul M. Rosa touchdown run.
Furthermore, immediately after the Bears struck for a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, the Chargers’ defense came up large again. After the offense lost the first of their three fumbles, it felt like the Bears would tie up the game with a third-straight touchdown in quick succession. However, the Wilcox defense dug in and forced a three-and-out. The ensuing 40-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
The Chargers’ MVP for the game was probably defensive end Isaiah Flores. The junior finished with two-and-a-half sacks, two more tackles for losses and two big knock downs at the line of scrimmage.
“Isaiah is a great teammate, leader on this team,” chimed the younger Rosa. “He leads us in prayer at the beginning of games, that’s just the type of leader he is.”
Both the defense and special teams helped Wilcox keep a grip on their lead all the way until the four minute mark of the fourth. When the Bears scored their second touchdown of the fourth quarter they were an extra point away from tying the game with about six minutes left. However, Chargers’ Isaac Passett got his big paw up and blocked the point-after attempt, allowing Wilcox to maintain the lead at 28-27.
At that point though, the Chargers’ usually dominant running game had just fumbled away possession on the previous two drives. The confidence in the run game seemed to go out the window. Wilcox tried to pass the ball, but a three-and-out drive on three incomplete passes gave the Bears the ball back with just 15 seconds taken off the play clock.
“I didn’t think we could run the ball there,” acknowledged coach Rosa. “We weren’t running the ball [well at that point]. The pass plays that we threw were there, we just didn’t complete them.”
When their running game was working early, the Chargers’ passing game was also clicking. Their final two touchdowns were aided by big pass completions to Rosa. One of which went for 20 yards down inside the five, and the other was a 42-yard touchdown reception. Unfortunately for Wilcox fans, after the successive fumbles in the fourth quarter, the Bears knew the Chargers needed to start throwing and could focus on the pass.
“Some of those turnovers at the end, it’s not our style to dropping back and throwing the ball,” remarked coach Rosa on the late interceptions. “Their corner made a helluva play picking off that slant on that first interception. The second one we are just desperate at that point trying to get down the field quick.”
Menlo Atherton would take the lead on the ensuing drive after Wilcox went three-and-out. From 17-yards out it looked like Bears sophomore receiver Troy Franklin was caught in the backfield on a reverse, but somehow escaped and then found the end zone. The touchdown gave the Bears their first lead of the game with just 3:33 remaining at 33-28.
The loss snaps the Chargers’ pursuit of an undefeated season, but in an odd quirk the CCS Championship loss does not end their season. Wilcox will host Capital Christian on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. to determine the NorCal Champion for CIF Division 3-A. The winner will play an opponent from Southern California for the State Championship.