RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The Etiwanda football team needed several things to go its way to have a chance for a victory.
Sure enough, they happened one by one during the final quarter of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 championship game.
Etiwanda trailed by as many as 26 points in the second half and was still facing a double-digit deficit with a little more than six minutes left in the game. The Eagles intercepted a pass and recovered an onside kick and scored touchdowns after each of the turnovers. Michael Harrison blocked a 43-yard field goal in the final seconds to secure the improbable 45-42 win for the Eagles.
The stunning come-from-behind victory by the Eagles on Saturday brought the program its first section championship since 1990.
“We told them before the game that we’re going to win. I don’t know what the score will be at the end, but we’re going to win,” Eagles coach Nick Baiz said. “It wasn’t looking good at halftime, but we kept repeating the same message: we are going to win.”
St. Francis (10-4) appeared to have the game well in hand when quarterback Jack Jacobs scored on a sneak to give the Knights a 35-9 advantage with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter. And St. Francis had an 18-point lead when the final period started.
Etiwanda (9-5) got the comeback going when Jaiden Moss scored on a 2-yard run early the fourth quarter to cut that deficit to 42-30.
The defense needed to make a big play and that happened when Chauncey Davis jumped a route and intercepted a pass from Jacobs. Etiwanda cashed in the turnover when Dermaricus Davis threw a 7-yard touchdown to Jaymiere McDowell with 3:47 remaining.
Etiwanda still trailed 42-37, but the Eagles still had hope after recovering an onside kick. Davis completed all six passes on the ensuing drive, including a 22-yard touchdown to McDowell on fourth down that gave the Eagles the lead for the first time Saturday night.
Davis was picked off twice in the first quarter, but the junior quarterback never hung his head and finished the night with a career-high 451 passing yards. Davis connected on his final 11 passes and went 18 of 20 for 267 yards during the second half.
“At halftime, my coaches just told me to forget everything that had happened and to start fresh in the second half,” Davis said. “I was more patient in the second half and started going through all of my progression. That was the big difference for me.”
St. Francis had 77 seconds to work with at the end of the game. The Knights worked their way down to the Etiwanda 26-yard line but had to use their final timeout to stop the clock with 5.7 seconds remaining. Clint Geryak lined up a 43-yard field goal to try to send the game to overtime. Harrison wedged through the line and got a hand up to block the attempt by Geryak.
“I knew it was all on the line at that moment and I went my hardest to get through there,” said Harrison, a senior linebacker.
St. Francis coach Dean Herrington believes it was the first time all season the Knights have had a kick blocked.
“We didn’t play well in the second half, and (Etiwanda) took advantage of that,” Herrington said. “We hurt ourselves with some penalties and a turnover. I never had a team in 38 years of coaching lose a 26-point lead. It the toughest loss I’ve been a part of.”
Everything seemed to go in favor of St. Francis in the opening half. The defense forced three turnovers, as Preston Jernegan and Julian Navarro intercepted passes and DruShun Phillips recovered a fumble. And the Knights scored 14 points off those miscues.
Devyn Turner gave Etiwanda’s defense fits, rushing for 187 yards and five touchdowns on 22 carries. He scored on runs of 1, 74, 23 and 2 yards, as St. Francis scored on 4 of 6 possessions in the firsr half. Turner added a 14-yard score late in the third quarter.
Etiwanda’s Jaden Landrum caught 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, while Zivan Ardines finished with six receptions for 186 yards and also scored on a 1-yard run.
Jacobs completed 14 of 27 passes for 225 yards and also ran for 36 yards on 12 carries.
Etiwanda started the season with two losses and needed to win its final game against Damien to ensure its spot in the playoffs.
“It just took a lot of perseverance each game we played.” Chauncey Davis said. “Perseverance and hard work from everyone.”