Limp in his gait, gleam in his eye, Larry Brown did more to dampen Grant High than the sprinklers that went on behind the Lancer bench in the fourth quarter, spraying and scattering players and coaches.
Brown was sidelined because of a sprained left ankle, but with 2:51 to play and San Fernando trailing by four, Coach Sean Blunt knew his 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior quarterback was the Tigers' best hope.
Operating from the shotgun, the left-handed Brown hit Jason Tubbs with a 21-yard completion on his first play, then after two misfires, heaved a long pass hauled in by Gerardo Rubi for a 59-yard touchdown to give San Fernando a 26-24 victory Friday in a nonconference game at Grant.
It marked the first time since 1991 that the Tigers (3-0) have opened with three victories.
"Coach asked me to tape up the ankle to see if I could run on it," Brown said. "We all came out and sucked it up in the fourth quarter. I had to do my part."
The winning pass capped an action-filled fourth quarter that began with an 89-yard touchdown run by Grant's Duriel Carter, who rushed for 289 yards in 18 carries. The score, which came on the same pitch play that sprung Carter for a 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter, pulled Grant even, 14-14.
San Fernando immediately put together a 79-yard scoring drive in eight plays capped by a one-yard plunge by quarterback Thomas Hoojull, a junior who started in place of Brown.
Grant came right back. Carter dashed 31 yards on the first play after the kickoff, and two plays later Cliff Francis connected with Robert Mitchell on a 34-yard pass play for a touchdown and a 21-20 lead.
The Lancers (1-2) extended the margin to four on a 38-yard field goal by Jesus Perez, but Brown hobbled onto the field on San Fernando's next possession and crippled Grant's chances.
"We are a completely different team with the big guy in there," Blunt said. "It certainly made a difference."
Brown wasn't the only Tiger not at full strength. Jose Meza, the team's kicker and punter, exited early with a back injury, and the Tigers made only one of four two-point conversion attempts. Starting offensive linemen Alonzo Rivas (knee) and Steve Nevarez (neck) also left with injuries, although Blunt said both players should be ready next week.
San Fernando tailback Major Caldwell was sick with the flu, but with Brown out, Blunt couldn't lessen his load. Caldwell rushed for 137 yards in 28 carries.
And sophomore Bobby Stanley overcame an asthma condition to play a key role on both sides of the ball, rushing for 103 yards in 10 carries and causing a turnover in the waning moments.
Following Rubi's touchdown, the Lancers took over at their 35-yard line with two minutes to get into field-goal range.
Mitchell, the leading receiver in the game with seven receptions for 91 yards, made a difficult catch in the flat at the 41 and turned upfield. Stanley, however, ripped the ball out of the Grant receiver's hands, giving San Fernando possession with 1:25 to play.
"I hit him and the ball at the same time, and just stripped it," Stanley said. "We had a bunch of guys step up at the end. It was a wild fourth quarter."