The fate of a hard-fought game was suspended in the air in its final moment Saturday--along with a football thrown by Mt. San Antonio’s John Spear and a pair of El Camino College defensive backs who were diving across their own end zone.
And when all three came to earth, El Camino’s Niu Sale and Larry Bonner had slapped away Spear’s would-be touchdown pass as time ran off the clock.
That crucial deflection preserved a 13-6 win for El Camino on Saturday afternoon in the dry heat of Mt. SAC’s Memorial Stadium in Walnut.
The game’s final play epitomized the defensive struggle that had gone on all day. El Camino (now 5-1-1 overall, 2-0 in their division) entered the game with the best passing attack in the Mission Conference’s North Division. Mt. SAC (5-2, 1-1) came in as the division’s top rushing team. So both defenses were on the spot.
“A game can’t get any tighter than that,” El Camino Coach John Featherstone said. “I guess we’re the Cardiac Warriors.”
The closing scene of this El Camino victory was definitely a heart-stopper. Spear had connected with flanker Melvin Blackmon with 30 seconds left to bring the Mounties to within 16 yards of the 7 points they needed to tie.
Four plays later, with time running out, Blackmon curled into the end zone and Spear--stepping out of the shotgun--fired into traffic for him. But the outstretched Sale batted the ball into the air and Bonner, sprawling, volleyed it into the ground.
“I could have almost had the interception, but I just tipped it,” said Sale, a freshman free safety from Bishop Montgomery High. "(Bonner) did the smart thing by just slamming it down.”
After the play, Spear and his teammates pounded the ground in disbelief while the Warriors celebrated.
El Camino got on the scoreboard first when quarterback Frank Dolce hit Mike Jones across the middle for a 17-yard TD. Dominic Cefalone padded the Warrior lead with field goals of 33 and 41 yards.
But the Mounties struck back in the third quarter when halfback Ron Robbins jackknifed over the goal line from inches out to cap an 87-yard drive.
Mt. SAC tailback Leonard Russell, the division’s leading rusher, carried 28 times for 140 yards. The Warriors’ Aaron Craver also had a big game, carrying 22 times for 116 yards.