By Tim Peterson
I’ll admit it was hard to be a non biased reporter last Saturday night. Being an Arroyo alum I almost threw my clipboard in the air and my arms to the sky when Ernesto “Macho” Camacho hit Devin Knight with the game winner in overtime for the CIF Championship. But I refrained.
I’ve been thinking about it since that moment. I’m not ready to say it’s the best high school football game I’ve ever seen, (I’ve seen over 300) but the Arroyo win over Rancho Mirage has to be in the top three. The big plays (by both teams), the ebb and flows, the momentum shifts, the magnitude of the game, the significance to the city of El Monte, and finally the dramatic two point conversion all contributed to a historical night at B.L. Bergstrom Stadium.
Arroyo took the early lead, the Knights were up 14-3 early in the fourth quarter behind Camacho and Yezdan Marquez, and 21-13 at the half. Then next thing you know, Rancho Mirage was up 27-24 at the end of three quarters. The Rattlers, (yeah Rattlers) seemingly had only three players, but they ran roughshod all night making life miserable at times for Arroyo Head Coach Jim Singiser and company. Some kid named Whitefield kept breaking off big touchdown runs.
Jesse Ortiz booted a 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to tie it at 27 and how big was that? We talk about Camacho, Knight and Marquez but where would the Knights have been if they forgot to bring their kicker? He also clubbed a 41-yarder in the third quarter (yes, they both were 41 yards) to give Arroyo a four point lead. Two 41-yard field goals in a championship game? By a high school kid? They make movies about those kinds of things.
Oh, and then this happened. With four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Daniel Whelan, the Rancho Mirage kicker who stands 6’5″ and was booting the ball 50 yards in pre game warmups, missed a 36-yard field goal giving Arroyo a shot in the arm.
So the game goes into overtime and the Knights immediately use that momentum to shut down the Rattlers and score to win the game right? Well, not quite. It’s been 30 years since Arroyo won a CIF title, you thought it was going to be easy? There was that dude Whitefield again (Kyle Whitefield) who was extremely hard to tackle. His 25-yard TD run had Arroyo in a hole again.
While Rancho Mirage needed one play to score, the Knights needed six but they did score on a Camacho one-yard run. Then came the decision. But it really was no decision. What did Singiser and the Knights have to lose? Well, plenty actually. The CIF championship for one. Oh yeah, there was that. And can you imagine the wrath that Singiser would have incurred from all the armchair quarterbacks? The second guessers would have had a field day from here to eternity. The Knights’ kicker, Ortiz, was nails. He had been lights out all night. Send him out there, knock it through the uprights and let’s go to the second overtime.
Well for the lack of a better term, screw that! That’s why we’re arm chair quarterbacks and second guessers and Singiser is wearing the headset. So, really for him it was no decision. There was a lot to lose, no doubt, but oh there was so much to win.
“We decided if we get down there why screw around, and exchange (possessions)? We’re two and a half yards from a CIF Championship. I like our guys from two yards, three yards,” Singiser said.
“There was no question at the end. We knew we were going to have a hard time stopping them, so Jim (Singiser) made the call to go for two and we had a play ready and thank God it worked,” said Arroyo offensive coordinator Chris MacMillan.
Ok but who came up with that specific play? Singiser? MacMillan? The Wolf? None of the above. “Actually it was Coach Knight (Joshua Knight) that suggested that two-point play. It was something that we had been working on and it worked,” MacMillan said.
So Joshua Knight suggested the two point play that his son Devin Knight caught to win the game? This script gets better all the time.
Camacho took the snap rolled right, threw low and Knight dove, sprawled and before you could say “It’s 1986!” he rose from the ground in the end zone holding the ball high above his head as the roar of the capacity crowd on the corner of Santa Anita and Lower Azusa reverberated throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
There were hugs and embraces exchanged from players, coaches and fans alike, tears flowed, and high fives were slapped. For a few fleeting moments B.L. Bergstrom Stadium was transformed into one giant celebration, a reunion of sorts, that will be etched in the minds of the Arroyo faithful forever.
On second thought maybe it was the greatest high school football game I’ve ever seen.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tspeterson40