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Dos Pueblos Falls Inches Short of First CIF Football Championship

Chargers just miss scoring a touchdown on game’s last play, lose to Quartz Hill 26-21

Dos Pueblos quarterback Jake Ramirez is overcome Friday night after the Chargers narrowly missed winning their first-ever CIF football championship. DP lost 26-21 to Quartz Hill when their last drive, with time running out, ended just short of the goal line. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos quarterback Jake Ramirez is overcome Friday night after the Chargers narrowly missed winning their first-ever CIF football championship. DP lost 26-21 to Quartz Hill when their last drive, with time running out, ended just short of the goal line. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

LANCASTER — Dos Pueblos came inches short of winning its first CIF-SS football title.

Dos Pueblos running back Rob Alfaro is stopped short of the goal line by the Quartz Hill defense on the last play of the game. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos running back Rob Alfaro is stopped short of the goal line by the Quartz Hill defense on the last play of the game. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Running back Rob Alfaro and the Chargers tried to pile drive 6 yards into the end zone for the winning score on the final play of the game. But Quartz Hill stood its ground, held Alfaro just outside the goal-line and escaped with a 26-21 win for the Division 10 championship before a full stadium on Saturday night.

Stunned DP players collapsed to the ground as the officials ruled the game over. 

“I was still moving,” Alfaro said of his push into the end zone. “I wasn’t in but I was still moving when they blew the whistle. I’m frustrated about that, but that’s how it goes.”

“We wanted to hang our hat on what we’ve done all year and that’s run the football," DP coach Nate Mendoza said of his decision to run the ball on the last play. I’m just proud of the guys. It was an unbelievable game, a lot of heart, a lot of will.”

Ironically, Quartz Hill lost in last year’s Division 11 championship game on the last play.

“I’m not going to lie, I had flashbacks right there in the red zone,” said Matthew Tago, the Rebels’ outstanding quarterback who ran for three touchdowns, including the game winner with 1:33 to go. He was playing defense on the final play.

“We just grouped up as a defense and said we had to push hard on this play and play great Rebel defense,” the UCLA commit said. “(Alfaro) was inches from scoring. That was really scary.”

With the stadium rocking, DP quarterback Jake Ramirez went to standout receiver Cyrus Wallace on the final drive. They combined on two short completions before Wallace made a diving catch for 24 yards, putting the ball at the Quartz Hill 22. After two incompletions, Ramirez scrambled around and flung a pass for grabs along the left sideline. A triple-covered Wallace came back for the ball and made a spectacular catch.

Ramirez spiked the ball on the next play and then let Alfaro and his big offensive line try to win the game.

Alfaro rushed for 110 yards.

After falling behind 20-7, the Chargers put a big scare into the Rebels in the second half. The offensive line took control and Alfaro and Erick Lopez started picking up big yardage.

Lopez scored on a 1-yard run to finish a 56-yard drive done all on the ground,

DP took the lead at 21-20 on a 4-yard run by Alfaro and a PAT by Mollkoy. The touchdown capped a 76-yard drive, on which Alfaro gain 57 yards. On a fourth-and-2 carry at the DP 32, he and the offensive line moved the pile 19 yards.

“Our game plan was to pound the ball like we’d been doing,” Alfaro said.

Tago was the difference maker in the game.  After DP took the lead, he answered with a huge audible call. On first down, he hit wide receiver Russell Dace on a 59-yard pass play. DP was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play, moving the ball to the 11.

“I switched it up because I saw they ran a cover zero with no safety, and I knew my guy was faster than their guy and I have faith in him,” said Tago, who completed 19 of 24 passes for 214 yards and rushed for 105.

Quartz Hill running back Entonio Washington is taken down by Dos Pueblos defenders Jacob Velasquez (54) and Anthony Myers. Click to view larger
Quartz Hill running back Entonio Washington is taken down by Dos Pueblos defenders Jacob Velasquez (54) and Anthony Myers. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

DP stopped Tago for no gain on first down, but he came back on an option play and ran the final 11 yards for the TD. The Rebels were stopped on a 2-point conversion try, leaving the score at 26-21.

“You try a lot of things,” Mendoza said of trying to contain Tago. “But when you have a good running quarterback like him, it’s just the way it goes.”

Tago was at the top of his game on the first drive of the game, taking the Rebels 65 yards on 11 plays for a score. He completed 3 of 4 passes and finished the drive with an 8-yard TD run at 7:48 of the first quarter. Ryan Redderman kicked the PAT.

DP’s defense kept it close in the first half. Alijah Grant recovered a fumble at the Quartz Hill 17 and the Chargers capitalized four plays later on a 4-yard run by Ramirez. Mollkoy’s PAT tied the score at 7-7 at 3:39 of the first quarter.

Tago continued to give DP fits. He did a nice job mixing up plays on a 90-yard drive or a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. He was 4 for 4 on passes for 50 yards. He finished the drive with 3-yard run at 11:40 of the second quarter.

The DP offense, meanwhile, struggled to put together a sustained drive. It gained just 30 yards in the first half.

Quartz Hill quarterback Matthew Tago stiff arms a Dos Pueblos defender on a big gain. Tago rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 214 yards. Click to view larger
Quartz Hill quarterback Matthew Tago stiff arms a Dos Pueblos defender on a big gain. Tago rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 214 yards. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

"We didn’t play a very good first half, not even close,” said Mendoza. 

But the Chargers were only down by a touchdown, thanks to some big defensive plays by Justin Padilla. He twice sacked Tago in the second quarter.

DP tried to attack through the air without any success on its first possession of the third quarter and punted the ball away.

Tago kept doing his thing for Quartz Hill. He broke off a 46-yard scamper that set up a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Etonio Washington, raising the Rebels’ lead to 20-7 at 7:11 of the third quarter. They missed the PAT kick.

At that point, DP’s offense finally came to life. The line fired out and pushed back the Quartz Hill defense, creating running room for Alfaro and Lopez.

“I wouldn’t expect anything different from our team, Mendoza said. “It’s just who they’ve been the whole year. They’ve been phenomenal kids.

“It’s just heartbreaking for the kids. I feel terrible for them to come up just short.”

Dos Pueblos finished its best season in school history with a 12-2 record.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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