SOUTH PASADENA — Bellarmine-Jefferson High senior running back Josh Martinez wasn’t going to be denied Friday night.
Not once, not twice, as Martinez broke potential game-ending tackles in the backfield on consecutive occasions in scoring a touchdown and winning two-point conversion in the Guards’ stunning 50-49 nonleague upset victory against undefeated Pasadena Poly at South Pasadena High.
“I don’t know what really happened at the end of the last two plays,” said Martinez, who rushed 33 times for 240 yards and four touchdowns. “I just knew I couldn’t go down and I told myself before each play that I had to go hard and I had to score.”
Martinez brought the Guards within a point in the chaotic waning seconds of the fourth quarter, as the Guards drove 68 yards on 10 plays with Martinez punctuating the drive with four seconds left when he scored from five yards after breaking a potential tackle for loss and bouncing left for a score, while dragging two defenders into the end zone.
After the touchdown, which brought Bell-Jeff (2-3) within 49-48, Guards Coach David Machuca burned his team’s final timeout, knowing what was coming next.
“I told my team that we’ve been working on an inside zone [play] since January,” Machuca said. “I said we’re going with the play we’ve worked on since I got here and that’s what we did.”
On the play, Poly blitzed with defenders streaming through both A gaps. Yet, while two players had an opportunity at Martinez, the Guards’ back broke through two tackles in crashing over the line of scrimmage for the game-winning two-point conversion.
The touchdown and conversion erased Poly’s lead, which was 49-42 after the Panthers (4-1), ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, scored on an 11-yard touchdown run from Jake Zelek (21 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns) secured on a brilliant block from running back Griffin Carter (12 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns) on Bell-Jeff’s DeVaughn Roberts.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with 2:12 left because we hadn’t shown an ability to stop them all game,” Poly Coach Brendan McGrail said. “We knew how much they could score and this is a tough one.”
Bell-Jeff scored two touchdowns before Martinez’s thriller, one score coming on a 10-yard run from quarterback Jonathan Porter (11 for 23 for 235 yards and one touchdown) and the other one a seven-yard run from Martinez that tied the game at 42, thanks in part to a missed two-point conversion with seven minutes left in the game.
In a defense-optional first half, the Panthers took a 35-30 advantage.
About the only defensive play worth noting came from Poly senior defensive back Curtis Toyota, who returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown with 6:23 in the second quarter.
The score put the Panthers up, 28-16, and was the second touchdown for Poly in a 10-second span as quarterback Nolan Mulligan scored on an eight-yard keeper.
Yet, Bell-Jeff countered with a one-yard plunge from Roberts. His score was followed on the Panthers' next possession with a 23-yard touchdown run from Carter, who also scored earlier in the game on a seven-yard carry.
The touchdown put Poly ahead, 35-24, with 2:34 left.
There was enough time, however, for one final punch from Martinez, who scored with six seconds left on a seven-yard toss from Porter to bring the Guards within single digits.
Poly's Alex Pinon opened with a 70-yard kick return for a score 17 seconds into the game.