Burroughs High quarterback Jeff Barrett has made a name for himself letting go of the football. Long, arching spirals are the trademark of the left-handed quarterback who holds every major passing record for the Indians.
But the last ball Barrett let go in his high school career Saturday night at Burroughs will not be remembered as a thing of beauty.
His fumble with 2:13 left in the Northwestern Conference championship game ended Burroughs' last-gasp drive, and Arroyo Grande defeated the Indians, 15-10, in a wind-swept game before 8,000 spectators.
It was a season of firsts for Arroyo Grande. After 26 years, the Eagles won their first Northern League title. Then, finally, on Saturday they became conference champions for the first time.
"I've never given myself the opportunity to think about our first championship," fifth-year Arroyo Grande Coach Jon Huss said. "I didn't want it to distract from the game. It feels pretty great right now."
Matt Drake's five-yard run with 1:07 left in the third quarter gave the Eagles a 15-2 lead. Arroyo Grande's defense then held off repeated Burroughs attempts to rally.
Barrett, who three minutes earlier in the final quarter had thrown 17 yards to Kevin Strasser to cap a 58-yard drive into the wind, bringing Burroughs to within five points, was hit by Charlie Collins and fumbled on the Eagles' 35-yard line. Arroyo Grande's Mike Avila fell on the loose ball, and the Eagles ran out the clock.
Jeff Heath led Arroyo Grande with 10 tackles and Avila had six.
"Our defense played great," Huss said. "It proved to be a defensive game, with a lot of mistakes on both sides of the field."
The wind, which gusted to 40 m.p.h., crippled both pass-oriented offenses.
Arroyo Grande's Jamie Martin, who had thrown for 2,240 yards this season, completed only one attempt for 18 yards. Barrett was 8 of 18 for 61 yards.
"The wind hampered the passing game a lot," Huss said. "The weather and field conditions made for less-than-championship conditions."
Arroyo Grande (11-2-1) instead turned to Drake, who ran for 96 yards in 23 carries and 2 touchdowns.
The Eagles led, 8-2, at halftime on Drake's 22-yard run on their first possession of the game.
The 5-11, 195-pound back lunged off right tackle, then stutter-stepped and bounced around the right side for the score with eight minutes left in the first quarter. Holder David Stone ran into the right corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Burroughs (12-2), the Foothill League runner-up to Hart, then drove 65 yards to the Eagles' one-yard line, but on first and goal Barrett fumbled and Collins recovered.
However, Arroyo Grande could not move the ball and was forced to punt from the two. The snap from Jay Wells was high to punter Shawn Brown, who leaped for the errant ball and landed with his heels out of the end zone for a Burroughs safety.
The wind proved more of a problem for the Indians in the first half, as Barrett completed 2 of 8 attempts for 20 yards and threw 1 interception. The Eagles chose not to battle the breeze. Martin threw just three times with one completion and an interception.
Burroughs running back Wes Bender gained 94 yards in 20 carries, accounting for nearly half of the Indians' 194 total yards.
The game ended in a 10-minute brawl involving the teams, coaches and several fans.