No question it was the Chris Czernek-Patrick Reddick show Friday night, but it took a special appearance by the Newbury Park defense to make it a success.
Paul Sanford intercepted a pass with 1 minute 7 seconds left to preserve the Panthers' 31-23 victory over Thousand Oaks in a Marmonte League game at Newbury Park (8-2, 5-2 in league).
The Lancers (7-2-1, 5-2 in league) had a chance to sew up second place, but could fall to fourth in league seedings for the playoffs.
This morning, a series of coin flips between Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Westlake will determine second, third and fourth places.
Czernek, who completed 23 of 38 passes for three touchdowns and 371 yards, passed the 9,000-yard mark for his career, the second player in California history to do that. Former Newbury Park quarterback Keith Smith, now at Arizona, was the first.
But after the Lancers scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and added a pair of two-point conversions to pull to within 31-23, it was the Panthers' defense that came up big.
Scott McEwan of Thousand Oaks heaved a pass from his own 46-yard-line that could have been caught by Sanford or Lancer receiver Barrett Grindle. Sanford out-jumped Grindle and the game was over.
McEwan missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday with stomach flu, but looked perfectly healthy on the third play of the game, floating a deep pass to Grindle for a 64-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Grindle had five catches for 126 yards. McEwan completed 11 of 22 for 216 yards and a touchdown.
Newbury Park was blanked in the first quarter for only the second time this season. But in the second quarter, Czernek and Reddick connected three times for touchdowns. One came on a 37-yard fly pattern, the others on middle screens of 74 and 34 yards.
"That was a very big play for us last year," Coach George Hurley said. "First time it's gone well for us this year."
Reddick, who has been slowed by injuries this season, finished with seven catches for 191 yards.