It’s rare when a game lives up to the hype, and Central and Buchanan had plenty of that coming into their league opener.
And when the hype materializes, hold onto your seats, it’s gonna be a wild ride.
Featuring two of the top football teams in the Central Section, Central and Buchanan clashed in a mighty duel for the ages, but in the end it was Central’s ice-in-his-veins quarterback and his playmaking receiver that was the final blow in the Grizzlies’ 28-27 dramatic win, stunning the Bears in front of a loud and boisterous Veterans Memorial Stadium to kick off league play.
Grizzlies quarterback Trent Tompkins, who threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter and was constantly pursued all night long by an invigorated Buchanan defense, lofted a perfect 23-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Jacob Torrez in the middle of the end zone with 37 seconds left in the game to beat Buchanan, sending the Bears (5-1) to their first loss of the season.
“He’s the best quarterback in the Valley,” said Central head coach Kyle Biggs of Tompkins. “It was good to see our team battle and compete and fight and be resilient like that. And to find a way to win – that’s what championship teams do.”
And it was an untimely mistake by Buchanan that helped fuel the comeback.
Tompkins, the TRAC Offensive Player of the Year last season as a sophomore, capitalized on a Buchanan fumble with 2:09 left on the Bears’ 30 yard line, setting up the dramatic drive. After a sack by Keenan Wolf and Toa Scanlan, the elusive Tompkins completed a third down, then ran for a first down on 4th-and-2 before his game-winning throw.
Moral victories aside, Buchanan stood toe-to-toe against the defending TRAC champion, whose only loss this season was 49-30 at nationally-ranked De La Salle.
The Bears were punishing on the ground, led by a massive offensive line and two of the best running backs in the Central Section in Trevor Ervin and Kendall Milton.
Ervin ran with passion and speed against a very good Grizzly defense, scoring all of Buchanan’s four touchdowns on runs of 27, 39, 3 and 60 on a night the senior had 210 yards on 16 carries, the final one blasting through a hole up the middle with 9:32 left in the game.
But the extra point went wide left, a play that would end up costing Buchanan severely.
“That man is a gamer,” said Buchanan head coach Matt Giordano of Ervin. “I’m very proud of all the efforts of everyone. We came up short and this one stings but we learned a lot.”
After Wolf picked off a Tompkins pass in the red zone with 5:02 in the fourth quarter, Central always has a chance with Tompkins, a 6-foot, 185-pound gunslinger, an escape artist with uncanny ability to extend plays with his feet.
Tompkins, who holds a scholarship offer from Nevada with more looming, finished 26-45 for 336 yards and three touchdowns along with those three interceptions.
“Trent is Trent. You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him,” said Giordano. “He did a phenomenal job playing with poise and coming through under pressure. I got the utmost respect for him.”
The respect is mutual.
“Going into the game, I knew [Buchanan coach Matt Giordano] with his experience in the NFL would put in something I haven’t seen before,” said Tompkins. “I knew there would be pressure.”
Giordano played safety in the NFL for seven years, winning a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.
The Bears came out fired up in the second half, especially on defense where they held the Grizzlies scoreless, until the final fateful drive after the Grizzlies took a 21-14 lead into halftime.
In addition to Wolf’s interception, Brock Jones had two including one in the end zone with 11:34 in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what we were hoping for the city of Fresno and Clovis – we take pride in the TRAC,” said Giordano. “Hats off to the Central players, we fought hard but in this one we came up short.”