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Late field goal lifts Patriots over Eagles in last-second thriller

CLAIREMONT MESA – With Santa Fe Christian and Christian deadlocked in the last minute of the Division V finals on Friday night, two field goal attempts in the final 28 seconds decided the championship. Christian kicker Mason Powell connected on a game-winning 37-yard field goal with 28 seconds left to lift the Patriots to a 32-29 upset at Mesa College and their first section title since 2006.

“I just did my thing practicing kicks on the sideline and left it up to them. They did their job and brought it down the field for me, so I put it through the uprights,” Powell said. “I knew I had to do it for my team.”

Following Powell’s kick, top-seeded Santa Fe Christian (11-2) quickly drove the ball to set up a Drew Shields 41-yard field goal attempt with 2.7 seconds left. The kick missed wide left, sending second-seeded Christian’s sideline into a frenzy.

“I don’t think anybody thought we were going to win but us. But we believed in ourselves and we felt like we were right there with them,” said Christian head coach Matt Oliver. “Everything came together at the perfect time for us.”

In the last minute of a back-and-forth third quarter, Christian (10-3) took a 22-21 lead on a Shane Dillon one-yard touchdown run. Following a Santa Fe Christian punt, the Patriots extended their lead to eight points with a Dillon 82-yard touchdown strike to receiver Phillip George with 5:50 remaining.

“Phillip came over to the sidelines and said the corner covering him was jumpy, so if he ran a hitch-and-go he was going to jump it,” Dillon said. “We tried it and all the credit goes to him – he called it.”

Santa Fe Christian tied the game on the ensuing possession with a 68-yard scoring drive. The Eagles capped the tying drive with a Tony Miro two-yard touchdown run and successful two-point conversion run by quarterback Connor Moore.

“We traded shots throughout the game,” said Santa Fe Christian head coach Nick Ruscetta. “With these teams it’s always this kind of game.”

With 3:50 left, Christian started the game-winning drive from its own 20-yard line. The biggest play of the drive was a 48-yard pass on third-and-long from Dillon to freshman receiver Seth Collins, who made a spectacular diving catch along the sideline.

“Shane was scrambling, I just waived my hand in the air and he threw it to me,” Collins said. “I don’t think I was running fast enough because I had to lay out for it.”

In the first quarter, Santa Fe Christian had a seven-point lead and the momentum after stopping Christian on fourth down at the 15-yard line. On the next play the Patriots scored their first points with a safety, tackling Santa Fe Christian receiver Cole Needham in the end zone for a 15-yard loss.

After the safety, Christian drove down the field and took the lead on a Dillon 10-yard pass to receiver Jason Gaines. Dillon threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, finishing the season with 3,106 yards to become the section’s first 3,000-yard passer since 2006.

“He was a great leader tonight, and he really showed his leadership on the field and off the field – in the pregame stuff in the locker room and on the sidelines,” Oliver said.

Santa Fe Christian led by five at halftime, and Christian caught a break at the start of the third quarter when Eagles defensive back Troy Zarubin mishandled a squib kickoff and George recovered the ball at the 30-yard line. A minute later, Trenton Sauls put the Patriots ahead 16-14 with a 17-yard touchdown run.

“We were terrible on special teams in the first game and tonight it kind of won it for us – we recovered a fumble on the kickoff, we covered the kicks well, and the big field goal to win,” Oliver said.

Christian won its eighth section title in school history by avenging a 14-point regular season loss to Santa Fe Christian. The Patriots snapped the Eagles’ 11-game winning streak with the last-second victory.

“They’re such a big rival and they’re a good football team,” Oliver said. “We knew we had a good game plan and if we could hang close we thought we had some playmakers that could make things happen late.”

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