An exhausted Trent Aronson, dripping with sweat and gasping for breath, was there for Capistrano Valley at the end. True, it wasn't the finish he had been expecting, but it was the one he was knee deep in.
Aronson's two sacks in the final minute kept the Cougars from losing what had seemed so secure. They preserved a 31-28 victory over Foothill at Tustin High.
"I just had to get in there somehow," said Aronson, a senior defensive tackle. "I couldn't believe we let them get that close. But our defense is tough."
In the end, yes.
Before that, they had nearly squandered a 31-12 lead. The Cougars (4-1) were carved up by running back Tramel Robinson (159 yards rushing) and quarterback Tyler Lang (271 yards passing).
Behind those two, the Knights scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and had the ball on the Cougar 33-yard line with a minute left.
Then Aronson tossed Lang for a four-yard loss on the Capistrano Valley 37. Two plays later, he chased down running back Lawrence Mariner, who was attempting a pass, on the 39.
Lang then ditched the ball to stop the clock, but possession went over to Capistrano Valley on downs with one second left.
"I don't how we let them get two touchdowns like that," said Aronson, who had three sacks. "We needed to make a big effort."
A minimal effort seemed to be enough for most of the game.
No matter how many yards the Knights gobbled up--and they finished with 470--they couldn't overcome Cougar big plays.
Capistrano Valley's Malaefou MacKenzie scored on the game's second play, going 75 yards around left end. Foothill defensive back Nick Sveslosky had a handful of jersey for a moment, but the 6-foot, 200-pound MacKenzie ripped free. No one else got close.
"The coaches kept telling us all week that Foothill was going to try hard to stop that play," MacKenzie said. "I turned the corner and no one was there. I went, 'Whoa, they were going to stop this?' "
The Knights (3-2) did little to stop MacKenzie. He gained 155 yards in 12 carries. He had a 54-yard touchdown run early in the second half to give the Cougars a 24-6 lead.
MacKenzie also had a 61-yard touchdown reception called back because of a holding penalty.
The Cougars' Erik Johnson blocked a punt to set up a touchdown. A bad snap on a Foothill punt set up another.
So, when Cougar quarterback Austin Moherman scrambled for a nine-yard touchdown run, Capistrano Valley had a 31-12 lead.
Then the work began.
The Knights went 75 yards in three minutes, with Mariner scoring on a 19-yard run. They went 80 yards in less than three minutes on their next possession, with Robinson scoring on a two-yard run.
Said Cougar Coach Dave Brown: "I think some pride got in them."
Then Aronson did.