There was little reason for optimism as Chaparral embarked on its final drive Friday night.
Trailing 14-7 with three minutes remaining, the sluggish Cowboys started from their 17-yard line with no momentum or offensive success to their credit. But they suddenly came alive, completing a seven-play, 83-yard drive with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Nelson Jimenez to Jesus Casamayor and a 2-point conversion to defeat visiting Foothill 15-14.
Though the rally lifted the Cowboys (6-4, 2-3 Southeast League) to a win, it wasn’t enough to earn them a postseason spot, as they needed a 13-point victory under NIAA tiebreaker rules. Foothill (6-4, 2-3) will enter the playoffs as the Southeast’s No. 3 seed next week despite the loss.
“We’ve made mistakes all season,” Chaparral coach Don Willis said. “I think on that last drive we just didn’t make those mistakes.”
The Cowboys got their final chance after a Falcons punt that bounced to the Chaparral 17. After converting on fourth-and-5, they worked the ball just past midfield with the help of a 24-yard pass from Jimenez to Al Caesar.
On a second-down play with 30 seconds remaining, Jimenez spotted Casamayor streaking down the left sideline. Casamayor caught the pass, broke a tackle at the 5 and stumbled into the end zone.
After the Cowboys lined up to kick the extra point, Foothill called a timeout. Willis said his assistant coaches urged him to go for the 2-point conversion.
“I think we might have caught them a little off guard,” he said.
Jimenez’s leaping pass to Robert Whitstone provided the margin of victory.
Though Willis said he was aware that his team had not qualified for postseason play, he chose to focus on the season-ending comeback win.
“It’s so nice for our seniors,” he said. “I just wanted them to go out with a win. They played their butts off and deserved it.”
Foothill, which held Chaparral to 42 total yards in the first half, led 14-0 at halftime after scoring on a 26-yard TD pass from Koy Riggin to Elijah Bryant and a 2-yard Riggin run in the second quarter.
The Cowboys made the most of good field position in the third quarter, scoring their first TD on an 11-yard pass from Jimenez to Casamayor to cut the deficit to 14-7. Neither team had subsequent offensive success until Chaparral’s winning drive.
Jimenez completed 20 of 30 passes for 166 yards to lead the Cowboys, and Casamayor racked up 79 yards on five receptions.
Jakob Petry rushed 17 times for 76 yards to lead the Falcons, and Riggin completed 18 of 30 passes for 183 yards.