BUENA PARK — Estancia High junior kicker Dan Cabrera had never made a field goal in a varsity football game.
Late in Friday night's contest the Eagles needed Cabrera, who kicked on junior varsity last year. He said he was confident he could come through.
In Cabrera's head, the 36-yard field goal has never in question. Cabrera transferred his thoughts to the field.
He easily nailed the field goal with 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter, lifting Estancia to a 17-14 victory at Buena Park.
"I knew this was for my team," Cabrera said. "I was thinking about the team more than the kick. I love my team. We're a family. It's a great experience to get the victory for my team."
Cabrera credited his kicking coach, Estancia assistant Chris Bargas.
"'Little Bargas,' he just pushes me to get through everything in kicking," Cabrera said.
"Big Bargas," Estancia Coach Mike Bargas, shared plenty of hugs with his players after the dramatic victory. It was sealed after senior cornerback Sho Watanabe intercepted Buena Park quarterback J.J. Christy's long heave downfield with 31 seconds left in the game. Watanabe caught the ball at the 11-yard line, keeping his feet inbounds on the home sideline to bury the hopes of the Coyotes (2-1).
The Eagles, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll, are 2-0 for the first time in Bargas' five-year tenure. They had to rally in the fourth quarter, tying the score at 14-14 on junior running back Robert Murtha's five-yard touchdown run to the left with 3:24 left.
On the third play from scrimmage on Buena Park's ensuing possession, Estancia senior linebacker Alex Rodriguez intercepted Christy's throw over the middle, returning it to the Coyotes' 40-yard line.
After four runs from Murtha and a Buena Park offside penalty, the ball was on the Buena Park 20. Estancia junior quarterback Brad Wilson tried to again draw Buena Park to jump, but the defense didn't and Bargas called a timeout.
Enter Cabrera, who cleared the goalposts with plenty of room to spare after the snap by Ozzy Magana and out of the hold of Levi Stillman.
Estancia had scored on the opening kickoff of the game, as Murtha took the bouncing ball back 80 yards for a touchdown. But the Eagles couldn't score again until late in the fourth.
The host Coyotes got their only touchdown of the first half after a 14-play, 65-yard drive. Christy scored on a one-yard keeper with 10:33 left before halftime.
Mike Bargas praised his defense, which came up big time and again against a team that came in averaging 48 points per game.
Senior end Andy Ugalde recovered a fumble at the Eagles' 25-yard line early in the third quarter, helping Estancia stay within striking distance. Senior tackle Alipa Peters had a huge hit on Buena Park running back Carlos Ponton later in the quarter on third-and-one at the Estancia 10-yard line. The play lost four yards, and Buena Park failed on its fourth-down pass attempt.
"These guys were on the field for a lot of that third quarter," Mike Bargas said. "We hit when we needed to offensively, but the defense was awesome. They did a great job … [Buena Park] had a couple big plays but all in all, the guys stepped up.
"They went into halftime and they were roaring and yelling. I told the kids they won the battle of the yells, but we need to make sure we win the four quarters of the football game."
Cabrera made sure.
Estancia 17, Buena Park 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Estancia 7 – 0 – 0 – 10 — 17
Buena Park 0 – 7 – 7 – 0 — 14
Est – Murtha 80 kickoff return (Cabrera kick), 11:48.
BP – Christy 1 run (Islas kick), 10:33.
BP – Mota 2 run (Islas kick), 7:12.
Est – Murtha 5 run (Cabrera kick), 3:24.
Est – Cabrera 36 FG, 0:55.
Est – Murtha, 25-96, 1 TD.
BP – Mota, 15-71, 1 TD.
Est – Wilson, 6-12-1, 55.
BP – Christy, 15-24-2, 150.
Est – Murtha, 2-22.
BP – Croft, 4-53.