By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Four quarters wasn’t enough to settle this one.
In a knock down, drag out game resembling a heavyweight boxing bout, Central connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Trent Tompkins to Malik White in overtime to beat Clovis West 34-28 in the Central Section Division 1 semifinal game in front of a packed Koligian Stadium.
Central had the second possession of overtime after Clovis West came away empty when Adrian Martinez, who was spectacular all night, threw two incompletions and was sacked. A 49-yard field goal attempt was missed setting up the Grizzly touchdown on their second play – a twisting catch by White caught at the 1-yard line, stretching out over the goal line.
The win sent the No. 1 seed Central (11-1) into the championship game where they’ll host No. 2 Bakersfield on Dec. 2. Clovis West, who had lost earlier to Central 49-28 n TRAC play, ended the season 8-4.
“Central did a tremendous job, my hats off to them,” said Clovis West coach George Petrissans. “I’m extremely disappointed for the fact that I can’t see my guys go on. They’ve fought all year long just as Central did – I can’t tell you have proud I am of all of them.”
And there were many reasons to be proud of Clovis West on the chilly 48 degree night facing a 10-1 Central team loaded with talent. The Golden Eagles have some talent of their own featuring Martinez, skilled offensive threat Rodney Wright and linebackers DJ and Dusty Schramm.
Martinez finished his amazing season with 404 total yards (262 passing, 142 rushing) with two electrifying touchdown runs (42 and 49 yards) in the first quarter after Central led 7-0.
But the Grizzlies would strike back to take a 21-14 halftime lead behind ever-elusive Tompkins’ 63-yard touchdown strike to Jacob Torrez and a 1-yard TD run by Matthew Mendoza.
Clovis West would tie the game with some trickeration in the third quarter with a 33-yard flea-flicker pass from Martinez to Brigham Bray – a play that prompted Petrissans to say, “When you’re facing a team that’s aggressive like Central you have to try something different.”
After a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tompkins to Torrez, the Golden Eagles knotted the game at 28 with 9:37 left in the game with a 68-yard touchdown from Martinez to Wright setting up the overtime period.
Central coach Kyle Biggs praised the effort of Clovis West, especially the play of Martinez who verbally committed to Cal on Sunday, Nov. 20.
“After the game I asked him to graduate early and go to Cal so we don’t have to see him,” said Biggs with a wry smile. “He’s phenomenal and when they need a play he’ll make it for them. He’s tremendous – a great kid, player and competitor.”
Though the heartbreaking loss was difficult to swallow, the silver lining was standing toe-to-toe with the talented Grizzly squad.
“You can’t go wrong when you lay it all out there,” Petrissans said. “You open your heart to your teammates and coaches and as it is in life whenever you put forth your effort in anything if you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”