This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Concord, Calif. • While East High's football team may have seen Tony Bennett's statue during their tour of San Francisco, you can bet head coach Brandon Matich will have his team singing "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," while riding back on the bus to Salt Lake City.
The Leopards provided their fans with a scrapbook of memories as they held off California's perennial prep powerhouse De La Salle 23-21 at Owen's Field on Friday night.
After allowing Jordan Harvey to score on a 2-yard run that capped an 80-yard drive for De La Salle to lead 21-20, both teams could not score for approximately the next 9 minutes.
With the Spartans having to punt the ball all the way down to East's 4-yard line, quarterback Ben Ford showed that he had true grit with 3:10 left to play.
Ford, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 122 yards on the night, threw an 18-yard pass to Josh Nielsen, a 16-yard pass to Tyler Eteuati and a 24-yard pass to Saia Hamilton for first downs. Two plays later, kicker Matt Barker made a 39-yard field goal with 1 second to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, De La Salle attempted to keep the ball live with rugby-like laterals, only to see their would-be miracle finish end at the 39-yard line.
"My heart was focused on winning," said Barker, who made a 28-yard field goal to trail 7-3 in the first quarter. "Earlier in the game, I was a little hesitant and nervous, and when our defense got going, I felt confident. It was awesome our whole team played with their heads up."
In the second quarter, Barker, who also plays on East's soccer team, missed a 49-yard attempt, as Easr trailed 14-10 at the end of the first half. He made his second field goal for 35 yards to lead 20-14 with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
That 85-yard drive in nine plays was set up on a strip fumble by middle linebacker Viliami Pulu Tausinga knocking the ball out of Kairee Robinson's hands after catching the ball from Abel Ordaz. East's Saia Hamilton fell on the ball on the Leopards' 15-yard line.
"They adjusted, we adjusted," said Matich who had studied the De La Salle program for 15 seasons, seven of those as East's head coach. "I tried to get my team to play like them; they show a four-man front and a three-four rushing defense, and then showed a five-two line that caught us off guard."
Offensively, East netted 525 total yards, with 413 on the ground. Jaylen Warren had 248 yards on 25 carries, with touchdown runs of 70 and 2 yards. Most of the blocking came from Paul Maile and Seni Tuiaki. The Leopards also had 22 first downs.
De La Salle netted 253 yards in total offense with 11 first downs. Robinson had 10 carries for 106 yards with touchdown runs of 36 and 55 yards.
Ordaz, De La Salle's quarterback, completed 5 of 12 passes for 106 yards, with Robinson making 2 catches for 98 yards, including his first catch for 44 yards that ended in a fumble. He also fumbled the ball on a run later in the game.
East is now 5-0 for the season, while De La Salle dropped to 3-1.
"It's a journey in progress," added Matich "Now we got to fix some of our mistakes before we get ready for our league, and hopefully that will lead us to the playoffs."
• Matt Barker makes what proves to be the game-winning 39-yard field goal with 1 second left on the clock.
• Running back Jaylen Warren rushes for 348 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
• In starting their final drive from their own 4, QB Ben Ford unleashes a surprise downfield attack, completing passes of 18, 16 and 24 yards.