Vaqueros drop state final

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Though they finished 2014 with the most successful season in school history, the Vaqueros did not ride off into the sunset with the Division III State Championship trophy. A long 122 mile bus ride awaited El Capitan after last Saturday’s last-minute 35-28 loss to the Campolindo (Moraga) Cougars.

Though they finished 2014 with the most successful season in school history, the Vaqueros did not ride off into the sunset with the Division III State Championship trophy. A long 122 mile bus ride awaited El Capitan after last Saturday’s last-minute 35-28 loss to the Campolindo (Moraga) Cougars.

Cougar receiver Max Flower took a screen pass for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:30 left in the game to even the score, 28-28, and erase El Cap’s 28-7 third quarter lead. Vaquero jack-of-all trades Isaiah Capoocia, however, responded by lining up at running back and led the offense to Campolindo’s 34-yard line. Receiver Sam Melero then took an end-around to the 12-yard line. 

On first-and-10, Capoocia took the handoff and ran right, but Cougar defensive back Tiger Garcia burst through the line and put his helmet on the ball. Linebacker Adam Remotto, who also had two receiving touchdowns for the Cougars, returned the fumble 85 yards for a 35-28 lead with 51 seconds remaining. Garcia would recover a Melero fumble on the ensuing kickoff to clinch the victory.

Vaquero head coach Ron Burner credited the Cougars with strong defensive play.

“(Capoocia) is obviously heart-broken out there, but he made the plays to get us where we are,” he said. “They made a good play on him. The ball got stripped out and they scooped and scored. That’s what we teach our defense too.”

El Capitan opened the fourth quarter with a 28-14 lead facing third-and-9 from its own 36 yard-line. Quarterback Brad Cagle launched a pass deep down the left sideline to receiver Frankie Lima. Lima dove for the ball along the sideline and twisted his body to haul in the catch. Though his was body out-of-bounds, a slight puff of dust kicked up in the field of play when he tapped his toes.

Trailing the play by 15 yards, the side judge ruled the play incomplete. El Cap was forced to punt and the questionable call seemed to kill the Vaqueros’ momentum, as the defense could not force a third down for the remainder of the game.

Cagle was sidelined with an ankle injury for the final four minutes of the first half and returned in the third quarter, though he struggled with his mobility. He said he wanted to leave Carson on his own terms.

“I was going to play no matter what, no matter what the pain was,” he said. “(The trainers) just taped it up as much as they can, put an ankle brace on it. I just said screw it, I’m going to play.”

His resolve helped spark a 21-point third quarter rally. With the game tied 7-7 and 6:32 left in the third quarter, Cagle slightly underthrew a deep pass down the left sideline to Lima. Cougar defensive back Conner McNally tipped the ball with his left hand, only to see the ball bounce off of his helmet and back into Lima’s hands for a 24-yard touchdown.

 Campolindo responded by marching down to the Vaquero 19-yard line. The Cougars lined up for a 26-yard field goal and Capoocia sprinted off the edge of the line. Matt Blair’s kick flew straight into Capoocia’s diving body and bounced in front of Melero, who returned the blocked kick for an 80-yard touchdown with 3:40 remaining in the third.

Melero and the Vaquero defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive. On third-and-3 from the Cougar 32-yard line, Melero, all of 5-foot-10-inches, timed his jump perfectly to knock the ball out of 6-foot-4-inch Flower’s outstretched hands. Just a play later, Melero tackled Blair for a 19-yard loss when a low snap got by the punter.
Capoocia then ran for a 13-yard touchdown on first-and-10 for a 28-7 lead with 2:32 left in the third.

Cagle said, despite the heart-wrenching loss, he was proud of El Cap’s historic season.

“You know, the ball doesn’t always bounce our way and things happen,” he said, “but we played hard to the end. It didn’t come out to our favor but I still love my team. We all love each other and it didn’t break us.”

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