As interim Coach Stephen Barbee was receiving the runner-up plaque, Tartans players jumped up and down, hugged each other and held their helmets high even after their 31-19 loss to Modesto Central Catholic at StubHub Center in Carson. For them, one defeat could not diminish a season's worth of winning.
St. Margaret's scored two touchdowns in the final 15 seconds, including a nine-yard pass from George Krantz to Charlie Beall, who outjumped a Raiders defender for the ball in the corner of the end zone as time expired. Oscar Gomez had capped the Tartans' previous drive with a 23-yard run and St. Margaret's recovered an onside kick.
"We've been underdogs the past four weeks but we never quit," said Barbee, a third-grade teacher at the school who has coached the team since the start of the season after Rod Baltau stepped down for medical reasons. "If we have one play left we're gonna go for it. We're going to play the whole 48 minutes."
Krantz completed 17 of 27 passes for 260 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Fernando Delgado caught five passes for 63 yards.
After falling behind, 21-0, the Tartans (15-1) scored on a four-yard pass from Krantz to Nick Shanks, before Bryce Wade kicked a 32-yard field goal on the final play of the half for Central Catholic to make it 24-7.
The Raiders (12-3) joined Concord De La Salle as the only two teams to win three straight CIF state bowl games.
"It shows that a little school in Modesto can play pretty good football," Central Catholic Coach Roger Canepa said.
Hunter Petlansky completed 11 of 19 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jared Rice, who had six catches for 73 yards for the Raiders.
Central Catholic held the Tartans to 268 offensive yards. Gomez, who entered the game with 2,337 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns, carried six times for only 34 yards.
"We played pretty good defense, we just gave up a few big passes and we didn't make the tackles when we needed to," Barbee said. "We had some costly holding penalties that gave them short fields. Still, it wasn't a bad run. Most programs would be thrilled to go 15-1."
St. Margaret's was making its second appearance in a state bowl game; it won the inaugural Division IV game (previously called the Small School Division) in 2008 under coach Harry Welch.
"We're the No. 1 team in SoCal and we had a great run so we're happy," Beall said. "We accomplished everything we set out to accomplish this season and more."
CIF Executive Director Roger Blake announced Friday that Sacramento State will serve as the main host for the CIF state football championship bowl games from 2015 through 2017. The games have been played at StubHub Center since the bowls started in 2006.
CIF Executive Director Roger Blake announced that Sacramento State will serve as the main host for the CIF state football championship bowl games from 2015 through 2017. The games have been played at StubHub Center since the bowls started in 2006.