Don Bauder 4:37 p.m., Dec. 27
Game of the Week: Poway vs Carlsbad
Titans clinch share of Palomar title with tough one-point win
Not much separated Palomar League unbeatens Poway and Carlsbad when they met Friday night at La Costa Canyon High School. A missed extra point was the difference as the Titans held off the Lancers for a 27-26 win.
“That was a total team effort,” said Poway senior Brett Thomas. “Shout out goes to the defense. We stood them up tonight.”
With the win, Poway (6-3, 4-0 Palomar) clinched at least a share of the Palomar League title and can wrap it up next week at home against Rancho Bernardo. Carlsbad (5-4, 3-1) closes out the regular season against El Camino.
Friday night’s game wasn’t settled until Thomas knocked down a Carlsbad hail mary attempt in the end zone as time expired. Thomas took no chances, batting the ball directly to the ground.
“I just tried to get up as high as I could and just hit it down as hard as I could,” Thomas said. “I did and we got the ‘W.’”
The first half was back and forth, and Carlsbad looked like it would go into the break with a lead. But Poway’s defense stopped Carlsbad receiver Ashston Barbour at the one-yard line as time ran off the clock, keeping the game tied at 13 at the half.
“We had a great drive to come down, we just came up a yard short. It was a little frustrating running out of time,” said Carlsbad head coach Bob McAllister.
Aside from keeping the game tied, the stop before the half also gave Poway momentum as they headed into the locker room.
“That was huge. We were walking off the field and Carlsbad had their heads down,” Thomas said. “And I knew that we had them from there.”
Poway came out quickly in the second half, taking a 19-13 lead less than a minute in on a 42-yard touchdown run by Thomas. With 77 yards rushing, Thomas provided a nice compliment to star running back Nick Ricciardulli.
“We’re not a one-man team. Anybody that thinks that is wrong. They have to stop us both,” Ricciardulli said. “We got other guys too – we just haven’t unleashed them yet.”
After a Thomas interception, Ricciardulli broke free on a 29-yard touchdown run with 7:19 left in the third quarter. Ricciardulli’s run and subsequent two-point conversion put Poway ahead 27-13. The Poway senior finished with 185 yards on 25 carries.
Down by two scores and in need of an answer, the Lancers got exactly that in the form of a six-minute scoring drive. Lancers quarterback Michael Leonard capped the drive with a sneak on fourth and goal from the one-yard line, making it a 27-20 game.
After Carlsbad’s defense forced a punt, the Lancers offense marched down the field again. Leonard scampered in from nine yards out with 7:31 to play, but Lancers kicker Colin Gurley missed the ensuing extra point that would have tied the game.
That missed extra point ended up being the difference in the game. Although Carlsbad had two chances to take the lead, Poway’s defense shut the Lancers down on both occasions. With 2:39 left, Thomas picked off a fourth down pass, and on the game’s final play, the Lancers could not connect on a hail mary pass.
“The kids played hard tonight. They played like they were trying for a league championship and came up just short,” McAllister said.
Winners of five of their last six and perfect in the Palomar League, Poway is winning the tight ones. Their ability to win close games will no doubt help the Titans come playoff time.
“This could be a turning point in the season,” Ricciardulli said. “It’s going to be tough to beat us now.”