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Both sides now: Lessier’s heroics on offense, defense send Basic to win, playoffs

Basic and Foothill took turns making big plays on special teams Friday. But the Wolves’ Anthany Lessier made the difference by making key plays, on both offense and defense.

Lessier rushed for a pair of touchdowns and had a pair of interceptions — and returned one for another score — to help No. 8-ranked Basic outscore the Falcons 47-30 and clinch a playoff berth.

“Last time I played good against Foothill was on JV, I had two touchdowns,” said Lessier, who said he had never scored three TDs in a game before. “I think I did pretty good.”

Lessier’s biggest play came with Foothill leading 21-17 and five minutes left in the second quarter.

The Falcons had seized momentum after Conner Afoa’s 92-yard kickoff return had given them the lead, and Basic’s ensuing drive had stalled.

Then Lessier leapt high in the air to snare a Foothill pass at the Wolves 45 and raced 55 yards down the right sideline to put Basic (6-2, 4-0 Southeast) back in front, 21-17.

“I was in the middle between two receivers, so when he threw it I thought it was a jump ball,” Lessier said. “So I just jumped up and I caught it. Then I thought ‘take it to the house.’ It was exciting and kind of shocking.”

Lessier helped Basic seize control in the second half with a touchdown runs of 9 and 23 yards that put the Wolves up 40-17 with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

Lessier’s key plays offset the exchange of big plays on special teams for both squads.

Foothill had Afoa’s kickoff return for a score to go along with a successful fake punt that set up a field goal.

Basic blocked a punt, as Kevin Hughes smothered the kick and Jesus Gutierrez recovered the ball in the end zone to give the Wolves a 7-0 lead 45 seconds into the game.

Then, to start the second half, Charles Phillips had a 78-yard kickoff return to set up Martell Walker’s 2-yard TD run 18 seconds into the third quarter.

Foothill (3-5, 1-3), which outgained Basic 333-270 for the game, made a run at Basic in the fourth quarter on a pair of Aaron Dupin-to-F. J. Funtila touchdown passes that made it 40-30 with 4:03 left.

The Falcons appeared to cut the lead to 3 with 2:20 remaining after a Basic fumble was returned for a touchdown. But Basic quarterback Robby Faiman was ruled down before the ball came lose and the score was nullified.

Four plays later, Faiman threw his second TD pass of the game, connecting with Justin Burdno on a 36-yard strike, securing the victory.

Faiman finished with 204 yards on 9-of-12 passing for the Wolves.

Lessier, meanwhile, said his team will try to cut out its mistakes against Del Sol next week. But he couldn’t help looking towards Basic’s playoff berth.

“I’ve never been to the playoffs before. It is really exiting to be going,” he said.

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