By Rick Fruchey
(Pasadena)- Rapidly becoming the standard for Maranatha-Salesian match ups are white knuckles, shortness of breath, a skipped heart beat (or two), and a tsunami of adrenaline.
It’s not for a CIF title, its not a playoff game, battling for a playoff birth, a league rivalry, or a geographic connection that has made this game memorable the last two years. It’s Maranatha versus Salesian, Mustangs versus Minutemen, enough said.
And it was the 2011 super nova named Darien McGee who returned a fourth quarter kick-off 98-yards to give Maranatha a 38-35 victory over Salesian on Friday night.
With 3:20 to play Salesian fullback Jamadre Cobb scored on a 2-yard run to give the Mustangs a 35-31 lead following the extra-point.
Score flattened a home crowd that saw the Minutemen build a 23-6 lead in the first half and brought reminders of their team’s comeback at Salesian in 2010.
Then came McGee, running with the night, who went 98-yards on the ensuing kick-off for the game winner.
“I’m so proud of my boys,” said Maranatha HC Pete Karavedas. “It was tough but they played through adversity.” The victory moved the Minutemen to 4-0, while the Mustangs dropped to 3-1.
Salesian scored first going 76 yards on 9-plays before running back Christian Vega scored on a 14-yard run. The extra point was missed and the rest of the half belonged to ‘Natha.
Late in the first Andrew Elffers hit Matt Hall with a 4-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-6.
Early in the second as the Salesian offense was beginning to struggle a snap on a punt sailed out of the end zone for a safety to make it 9-6. All told in the first half the Mustangs would account for only 90 yards of total offense, 76 coming on the game’s first series.
With 7:42 to play in the half Elffers hit tight end Robert Flewelling for a 5-yard score and four minutes later Omar Younger hit paydirt on a 33-yard run to make it 23-6 at the break.
The Mustangs put it together in the third as Vega scored early on a 4-yard run to close the gap to 23-14 following the two-point conversion.
Then with 9 seconds remaining in the third Salesian’s Luke Urista returned a punt 42-yards for a touchdown and it was a 23-21 contest.
Minutes later Jihad Vercher went 44-yards to Keishawn Roe and the Mustangs had a 28-23 lead.
“My defensive backs were struggling against their receivers,” said Karavedas. “They had an advantage in talent and height.”
With 7:43 to play Elffers brought his team back scoring first on a 3-yard run and then adding the deuce to put Maranatha back on top 31-28.
Undeterred the Mustangs went back to work and retook the lead on Cobb’s scoring which set up McGee’s heroics.
Elffers finished with 14 completions for 146 yards and two touchdown, while Vercher completed 12 for 207 yards.