MEMORIAL FIELD — While the finale was characterized by a number of nail-biting moments, the end result certainly did not unfold the way the Bellarmine-Jefferson High football team would have scripted it.
Saturday night against visiting Rosamond, the Guards put the game in the hands of their senior star, Micah Shirley, who willed the team to the brink of victory with a stalwart effort.
He repeatedly ran the football in and around the Roadrunners' defense, which yielded little resistance. He lined up in a Wildcat shotgun formation and delivered a handful of timely passes that kept Rosamond guessing. At free safety, Shirley broke up plays with a pair of bone-jarring hits that fired up the Bell-Jeff fans.
However, it wasn't enough.
Rosamond materialized a scoring drive in the final minute of the game to escape with a 15-12 comeback win. The win was its first of the season, having previously lost, 66-0, at Boron, and 36-0, versus Antelope Valley.
"I think it was a great game," Bell Jeff Coach Rolando Aguirre said. "[Rosamond] came to play."
Bell-Jeff fell to 1-2 and has lost two in a row.
"Actually, I wasn't pleased at all," Shirley said dejectedly. "Yeah, I got my yards, but I don't care about that. I'd rather us win."
Shirley finished with 14 carries for 108 yards, including runs of 36 and 30 yards, and was six of 12 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Down, 12-9, with just 46 seconds remaining and facing a fourth-and-14 situation, Rosamond quarterback Andrew Carney threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿Adam Cope, who ran a fly ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿pattern, erasing the deficit and putting the Roadrunners back up for good.
"When they caught the touchdown pass over there — which they shouldn't have — I called the defensive play," said Aguirre. "We weren't in the right position. He just threw it up in the air and they caught it. It's ridiculous."
When Rosamond placekicker Gabriel Quintero missed the extra point attempt, Bell-Jeff was down by three and had one last chance with 41 secondsÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ÃÆÃâÃâÃÂ¿ left.
Shirley returned the kickoff to the Bell-Jeff 42-yard line, then rushed for seven yards, passed for six yards to Kevin Yuenyongsakul and passed for 11 yards to Michael Gomez, bringing the offense to the Rosamond 36-yard line with four seconds left.
Shirley's next pass was incomplete and the game appeared to be over. But the officials whistled Rosamond for a personal foul, giving Bell-Jeff one more play with no time remaining.
From the 21-yard line, Shirley took the snap, surveyed his receivers and threw a prayer intended for Mario Marquez. The effort fell incomplete, just short of the goal line.
"What I wanted to do is the run the ball," Aguirre said. "It was set up for Micah to run around and do it, and he wouldn't do it. All he had to do is run out of bounds. I felt like he threw it in a crowd. I don't understand it."
"We just kept making mistakes," Shirley said. "We never gave up. We just didn't play with heart. That's what happens when you don't play with heart."
Rosamond got out to a 3-0 lead behind a 22-yard field goal from Quintero. The effort bounced off the crossbar and dropped through at the 7:00 mark of the first quarter.
On the opening play of the second quarter, Marquez countered for Bell-Jeff with a 27-yard touchdown run. He registered nine carries for 43 yards.
With the Guards up, 6-3, quarterback Johnny Karalis fumbled on the two-point conversion try, which was recovered by Rosamond.
Rosamond answered just three seconds before halftime when Carney hooked up with Cope on a 23-yard touchdown pass, as the visitors took a 9-6 lead.
Carney completed seven of 11 passes for 71 yards.
Quintero's following extra point attempt bounced off the right upright.
Bell-Jeff halted Rosamond on the opening possession of the third quarter, forcing a punt.
Shirley then appeared in the Wildcat formation, standing seven yards deep in the shotgun. He threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Yuenyongsakul where he took the snap, rolled to his right in what appeared to be a running play, but then fired a spiral to his wide open teammate for the score.
The Guards went up, 12-9, until Rosamond's game-clinching score.
Yuenyongsakul totaled three receptions for 92 yards.
Aguirre noted that Karalis, who didn't complete a pass in three attempts and had problems holding on to the ball, missed practice all of last week leading up to the game. Aguirre plans to integrate the sophomore quarterback back into the offense. "We got to go back to Johnny Karalis," said the coach. "Hopefully he'll throw the football when he's supposed to and get it done."
Bell-Jeff played its second game without sophomore running back and corner back, Joshua Martinez, who suffered a broken a broken tibia during the season opener against Saddleback Valley Christian.