Yellowjackets sting Hawks with last second touchdown, 36-28

“This was a dogfight,” said Gabriel Aparicio, who led team with 128 yard passing and four touchdowns. Colton now in contention for a CIF playoff bid


Rich Corral | Metalrichpics

James Gonzales looks to the referee to see that his touchdown pass won the game against Arroyo Valley, 36-28.

San Bernardino, CA—There’s an old maxim: it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

The Yellowjackets finished like champs last night at Arroyo Valley.

With 11.8 seconds left on the game clock, game locked at 28-28, the Yellowjackets lined up at the Arroyo Valley 11-yard line. QB Gabriel Aparicio took the snap, stepped back and let the ball sail deep into the back corner of the end zone where he connected with James Gonzales on the game winning touchdown. A 2-point conversion by Damian Sanchez put the game out of reach and the Yellowjackets emerged victorious, 36-28.

It was an unlikely end for a game that looked set for overtime, but the Yellowjackets found something within themselves to go for the win.

“This was a dogfight,” said Aparicio, victory glow all around him after the game. “Our coach said ‘play through the last whistle’ and that’s what we did. When we play as a team, this is what happens.”

Colton’s stars shined in this one, with Aparicio passing for 128 yards and 4 touchdowns. Xavier Sandoval, in his second game back, had 121 combined rushing and receiving yards with two touchdowns. And James Gonzales emerged as a legitimate threat in both the passing and running games with a combined 118 yards and two touchdowns.

“My [offensive line] had the most amazing blocking tonight,” Gonzales said. “They gave me all the lanes I needed to run. I was just following them all night.”

Colton got their licks in early, punching into the endzone on 21-yard touchdown pass from Aparicio to Sandoval early in the first. Cornerback Dimitrius De La Torre recovered a fumble on Arroyo Valley’s first possession, bringing the Yellowjacket offense back on the field. They looked ready to stomp all over the Hawks.

However, the Hawks had a lot of fight in them. Led on offense by quarterback Juanya Morris and receivers Juakeen Morris and Dexter Hammond, they pushed back, scoring the next touchdown to put the score at 8-6, Colton.

After only connecting on 1 of 7 targets to that point, Aparicio found James Gonzales on the next series for a 25-yard touchdown pass that extended the Yellowjacket lead to 16-6.

The second and third quarters did not go well for Colton. The defense struggled against Juanya Morris’ slippery run game, and they had a tough time stopping Hammond in the open field. Arroyo Valley went up 20-16, and took a commanding 12-point lead to start the third quarter on an 11-yard pass from Morris to his brother Juakeen.

The Yellowjackets kept fighting. Aparicio connected with receiver Mateo Barboza on a 26-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. With a failed 2-point conversion, the team found themselves only down 6.

Then Xavier Sandoval, exclusively playing in the backfield during the second half, broke free of the Hawks defensive line and ran for a 33-yard touchdown late in the third to tie the game up at 28.

The dogfight was officially on. In a fourth quarter marked by back-and-forth plays and several penalties, the game seemed like it had come down to a fourth-and-one situation with about two minutes to play. Running Back Damian Sanchez tried forcing the ball through the line of scrimmage, but the spot on the ball put the Yellowjackets short by inches. This controversial call brought the Colton crowd and sidelines, frustrated all night by what seemed to be a slew of bad calls by the officiating team, into an uproar. That was made worse when Arroyo Valley was gifted a generous spot on a similar play with under a minute to play.

But Colton’s players didn’t stop fighting. The defense forced a punt, which the Hawks fumbled, causing the Yellowjackets to recover at the Hawks 21-yard line. Then a penalty on the Hawks pushed the ball to the 11, setting up Aparicio and Gonzales for the final play.

“That’s what you gotta do to win games,” said head coach Ray Rodriguez. “They were in a dogfight and they showed up. They didn’t coil up. They were ready to go, and I’m proud of them.”

One more game remains on the Yellowjacket schedule, next week at home against Notre Dame at 7 p.m. The win against Arroyo Valley puts Colton firmly in 2nd place in the Skyline league, a game behind Rialto. A win next week against Notre Dame will put Colton in a position to earn a CIF playoff bid.