By Joe Torosian
(El Monte)- It was all over except the hugging.
An eight-yard sack by Temple City’s Justin Sutton, the equivalent of last rites, was followed by an incomplete pass most thought a benediction and most were ready to embrace the end.
With less than thirty seconds remaining on third and technically 18, figuratively third and forever, and 93-full yards from the land of the living Arroyo quarterback Steven Rivera scrambled to his right. Chris Rodriguez went deep.
The sophomore southpaw uncorked his throw fifty yards down the middle of the field. The Knights Rodriguez won the jump ball against TC freshman Brandon Cox and scrambled the remaining distance to give Arroyo a 27-24 victory on Friday night in the “Mid Valley Classic”.
“We escaped,” said Knights coach Jim Singiser.
“It feels great,” said Rodriguez (6-catches 213-yards, 4 Tds). “I just wanted the ball. It was a little under thrown, but they coach us to come back to the ball. So I did.”
After building a 21-7 lead late in the first half, Singiser saw his team surrender 17 consecutive points and trailing 24-21 in the game’s final moments.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage Rivera used play action and single coverage on Rodriguez to go 74-yards for a touchdown.
The Rams Max Ruckle took the kick-off back 86-yards to even the score at seven on what is becoming a standard in this contest: a Temple City kick-off return for touchdown.
“We knew it was coming,” said Singiser. “I didn’t know who was going to take it back, but I knew it was coming.”
Twenty-five seconds into the contest and there were already two touchdowns, the third would come after a five-play 65-yard drive when Rivera (10-21-244-yards 3 Tds) went 17-yards to Rodriguez.
Later in the second Rodriguez ran a reverse 35-yards to paydirt and it was 21-7.
TC used the final three minutes of the half with key passes from Justin Smith to Ruckle and receiver Brandon Pultz to set up Drew Tinsley’s 40-yard field goal.
Down 21-10 to start the third, Temple City went 67-yards on 11-plays with Ruckle running mainly to the right behind guard Matt O’Malley and tackle Sutton.
“You better mention O’Malley, Sutton, and Ruckle they are some of the best guys playing football,” said Singiser. “They would be an honor to coach.”
Ruckle (29-152, 2 Tds) capped it with a five-yard run.
As play moved into the fourth TC went on the march again. On first and ten at the Arroyo 24 Ruckle broke up field but fumbled after 10-yards.
Best described as a greased pig, players from both sides attempted to jump on the ball as it kept squirming into the end zone before Sutton landed on it and, with the point after, gave the Rams a 24-21 lead.
The Knights next drive was thwarted by Carlos Mota’s sack of Rivera.
Two more sacks, one by Sutton, stalled the next Arroyo threat, and Sutton picked up another sack as the Knights took over at their own 15 in the final moments and Anthony White’s victory debut seemed assured.
“They are as good as advertised,” said Singiser. “They played to their strengths. We knew we would get a lot of Max, but they had stuff we had never seen out of TC before. I have no doubt we will see them again down the road. They’re a good football team. We need to keep getting better and mature.”
Then came the hugging…