SAN BERNARDINO — The Arroyo Valley High football team kept running and the time was melting like an ice cube on hot asphalt. Then it happened.
Junior quarterback Michael Guzman dropped back and completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Saul Gusman in the left corner of the end zone with 17.8 seconds left. That touchdown stood up for a 22-18 Hawks’ victory against host San Gorgonio on Saturday, April 3.
“That felt great,” said Guzman, a transfer from Miller High. “It was my first touchdown pass. I believed in my team every single play. We were on it and we just pushed through.”
Guzman never played quarterback before this year. Arroyo Valley coach Jake Knesel turned to Guzman because he knew he had a baseball background and could throw.
“We lost our starting quarterback. He moved,” Knesel said. “The first day of practice we asked, ‘Who can throw the ball?’ And I knew [Guzman] had a little baseball past and he’s just embraced it. He’s never thrown better than he did today, so he’s a gamer for sure.”
San Gorgonio led 18-16 before the winning play, thanks to a 17-yard TD run by Thomas Bell with 4:20 left in the third quarter. When Arroyo Valley moved the ball close in the final minute, Spartans coach Rich McClure thought the Hawks were going to kick a field goal.
“I thought they were setting it up to kick the ball,” McClure said.
“Then when they got in their offensive set, I said, ‘Well, they’ve got one play they’ve been setting up.’ We were in man coverage and we just didn’t get it done.”
San Gorgonio still had a modicum of time. The Spartans took over on the Arroyo Valley 50 and quarterback Seth Burbine completed an 11-yard pass to Pedro Seda and a 25-yard pass to Elijah Amsterdam. But Amsterdam was tackled on the Hawk 14 as time expired.
Next up for San Gorgonio (0-2) is host Summit at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 10.
The Spartans prepare for games under easy-ups outside the locker room in these COVID-19 times. McClure briefly spoke to the team, then retreated to his office.
“I just asked them to speak to each other,” the veteran coach said. “I got the response that I figured. They said they beat themselves. They took it personally and didn’t blame anybody. They know each one of them has got to get better.”
San Gorgonio trailed 16-6 at the half and seemed headed for certain defeat until scoring twice within 17 seconds late in the third quarter.
First, Burbine connected on a 16-yard TD pass to Amsterdam with 4:37 left in the third. Then Arroyo Valley fumbled and one play later Bell was in the end zone following his TD run to make it 18-16 San Gorgonio.
It has been a tough start to the season for the Spartans, who suit up fewer than 20 players and had a couple of players writhing on the turf with injuries against Arroyo Valley.
“It’s different,” Burbine said. “We have to adapt to it. Adapt and overcome. I felt like this week we were a lot more conditioned.
“There’s just still little pieces we need to put together.”
Burbine completed 15 of 22 passes for 156 yards and a score. He also ran for a touchdown. Amsterdam caught seven passes for 82 yards and one touchdown.
But San Gorgonio’s ground game struggled, picking up just 35 yards.
Guzman completed 6 of 9 passes for 78 yards with one TD for Arroyo Valley.
His effort impressed Knesel, who is also the Hawk baseball coach.
“He hasn’t played baseball for me yet, but after today I might let him on the team,” Knesel said.
COUGARS DOWN AQUINAS
First-game jitters didn’t impact Rancho Cucamonga as it defeated the Aquinas football team 18-6 on Thursday, April 1, in a nonleague game.
Rancho Cucamonga led 18-0 until Aquinas’ opening drive of the second half. The Falcons finally got on the board with a 28-yard scoring pass from Dre Robles to Brent Austin.
Aquinas planned to go for a first down near midfield early in the fourth quarter, but a penalty scuttled that. The Falcons punted and Rancho Cucamonga ran out the final eight minutes of the game.
Romeo Ross rushed for more than 60 yards on 13 carries and starred on defense for Aquinas (0-3).
Adrion Boyd rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries for Rancho Cucamonga, which also passed for 210 yards.
Aquinas hosts Linfield Christian in its final game, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 9.