Windsor hangs on for thrilling 10-9 win

Maria Carrillo's Jake Delfino is stopped by the Windsor defense during the second quarter at Windsor, Friday Sept. 24, 2010. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2010

By BOB PADECKY
PRESS DEMOCRAT SPORTS COLUMNIST

WINDSOR — It wasn’t a playoff game but it should have been. Then the Maria Carrillo-Windsor game Friday night would have been given the shelf life it deserved — a forever memory that would keep people yapping about it until they run out of words.

It’s a shame this one was played in September. Too many more games to be played. Too many other games to take its spot. Too bad.

This one deserved to be on the mantle all by itself.

Windsor beat Maria Carrillo, 10-9, only because Puma kicker John Duran missed a 42-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

“It was left about five feet,” said the Maria Carrillo junior.

“No, man!” said teammate Cody Giles. “It was only this far.”

Giles held his hands two feet apart. “I saw it with my own two eyes!” said the Carrillo running back.

Windsor remained undefeated at 4-0 but it knew that never will a victory ever be closer, be more in doubt, be held in suspense to the very last second. And that a victory is a victory sure but . . .

“If the ball (field goal attempt) is inches to the right,” said Windsor coach Dustin Davis, “they win.”

That’s how juiced people were at the end. The field goal missed by five feet, or was it two feet, or maybe it was two inches? No matter. Just as they deserved to be remembered long past September, Maria Carrillo deserved to get this close.

“We played just good enough to win the game,” Davis said afterward.

Jay Higgins, the Puma coach, could say the same thing. For the most part both teams took part in what was like a wrestling match for the first three quarters. A lot of players on the ground. Not much yardage. A burst here, a stop there. It was 3-3 at the end of the third quarter. Windsor’s Shane Hardisty had the ignominious moment of being wide open in the end zone with seven minutes left in the game and having Christian McAlvain’s 17-yard pass skim off his fingertips.

Maria had a 9-3 lead at the end with quarterback Sam Atoe bouncing in from the one-yard line. The point-after attempt, taken after only the Pumas re-shifted from a questionable two-point attempt, was blocked — the kick not elevating more than waist high.

“Coach said someone needed to step up,” said McAlvain of Davis’ speech with 6:37 left. “I felt as the quarterback it was my responsibility to get the job done.”

On that final drive that produced the winning touchdown — McAlvain’s keeper from one-yard out with 1:21 left — the quarterback provided 40 of the 54 yards it took to get there.

Which, of course, as this game played out, was Atoe’s opportunity match his opposite number. Atoe did. Maria went from its 20 to Windsor’s 25 with Atoe running four times for 33 yards and passing once for 21 more. Which set up Durand for the most important field goal of his young life.

“At the last second,” Durand said, “I lifted my head a little. If I don’t lift my head like that, I make the kick.”

I bet it was the longest 42-yard field goal attempt in Maria Carrillo history. The stands, the field, the concessionaires, too, all held their breath. It was the only quiet moment all night.

The two officials on each side of the uprights didn’t signal immediately. There was a pause. It was that close. They signaled wide left and the place went goofy, drooling crazy.

“Hold on for a second,” Davis said after he was approached. “I need to catch my breath.”

See, it was THAT kind of game. Even the adults who were standing still were out of breath.

For more on North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.