By Tim Peterson
(El Monte) – Ernesto “Macho” Camacho hit Devin Knight in the corner of the end zone for a two point conversion in overtime to give Arroyo a dramatic 35-34 win over Rancho Mirage Saturday night at B.L. Bergstrom to win the CIF Division 12 championship.
After Rancho Mirage scored in OT for a 34-27 lead, Arroyo head coach Jim Singiser decided to go for two and the win if the Knights scored. Camacho, out of the shotgun, took the snap, rolled right and fired a low strike to a sprawling Knight who made the grab and sent the standing room only crowd into a frenzy.
“We decided if we get down there why screw around and keep trying to stop them? We’re two yards away from a CIF Championship. I like our guys from two yards or three yards,” Singiser said.
The Knights forced the overtime when Jesse Oritz booted a 41-yard field goal with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter. Rancho Mirage then drove down the field for what may have been the game winning march but was stopped at the Arroyo 19. Daniel Whelan, who had kicked two field goals for the Rattlers earlier in the contest, pushed a 36-yard attempt wide right.
Rancho Mirage took possession first in the OT and needed just one play to get the lead as Kyle Whitefield went 25 yards on a sweep around the right end for the score. The Knights used five plays to get in the end zone. Camacho scored on a one-yard run to cut it to 34-33. Arroyo called timeout and the decision was made to set up Camacho’s two point bullet to Knight.
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“There was no question at the end. We knew we were going to have a hard time stopping them. Jim (Singiser) made the decision to go for two and we had a play ready and thank God it worked,” said Arroyo offensive coordinator Chris MacMillan. “Right after they had scored Jim came to me and said if they do score get a two point play ready just because we didn’t want to draw this thing out. We wanted to end it right there if we could.”
Arroyo got on the board first marching right down the field 80 yards on the opening drive to go up 7-0. Camacho hit Yezdan Marquez with a 24-yard strike for the touchdown.
Rancho Mirage responded with a 31-yard field goal by Whelan to make it 7-3 after one. The Knights went up 14-3 early in the second quarter when Camacho hooked up with Marquez again for a nine yard scoring pass. Then the Rancho running attack started kicking into high gear.
A long kickoff return set up the Rattlers at the 50 yard line. On the first play of the series Whitefield got loose and went 50 yards for the score to cut it to 14-10. Whelan kicked a 26 yard field goal on the next possession and the Arroyo lead was just 14-13.
Arroyo pieced together a key drive just before the half. The Knights marched 80 yards on 11 plays with Camacho doing it himself from three yards out with four seconds left in the first half. Arroyo took a 21-13 lead into the break.
Rancho Mirage took its first lead of the game in the third quarter. Mason Ferrer took advantage of a missed Arroyo blocking assignment and scooped up a blocked punt and returned it three yards for a score.
Oritz answered with a 41-yard field goal for a four point advantage but Whitefield scored on a nine-yard run to cap a six-play, 67-yard drive and Rancho had its first advantage at 27-24.
Ortiz tied it in the fourth to set up the overtime.
Arroyo turned the ball over just once on the night as Camacho was picked off in the third quarter. Rancho Mirage coughed it up twice – both on fumbles.
Camacho finished the night 20 0f 32 for 230 yards and two touchdowns and one pick. He also rushed for 89 yards and a pair of scores. Marquez had three catches for 47 yards and two TDs and Knight caught five passes for 47 yards and the game winner. Steven Ocariz had 16 carries for 65 yards.
For Rancho Mirage Whitefield had 21 carries for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback David Talley threw the ball only eight times and completed five for 70 yards. He rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries.
Arroyo (13-1) won the CIF title for the first time since 1986. It was the Knights first appearance in a championship game since 1991 and their fourth appearance overall.
It might be however, the most memorable one of all.