SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — A furious Muir High comeback and a disastrous Crescenta Valley turnover put the Falcons football team in the last place it wanted to be on Friday night — with its defense on the field, needing to protect a seven-point lead against a hard-charging, explosive Mustangs offense.
After the Mustangs had blazed down the field with seeming ease to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns in just four total plays covering 165 yards, it looked to be far from an easy task for the Crescenta Valley defense, but one the Falcons rose to nonetheless.
Crescenta Valley defensive back Nick Ruiz intercepted Muir quarterback Joshua Muema-Washington at the Crescenta Valley 10-yard line to halt a Muir drive at the four-yard line with 10 seconds to play and preserve a 27-20 Pacific League home win.
"I just felt like I had to make a play," said Ruiz, who had two interceptions and also caught four passes for 114 yards and a touchdown while playing receiver. "We knew they were going to go long. I just figured I would drop back. I saw the ball in the air and I went up and got it."
It was the second pick of the fourth quarter for Ruiz, who also intercepted Muema-Washington at the very same spot with under six minutes left in the fourth quarter as CV was clinging to a 20-12 lead.
The Falcons turned that play, which included a 49-yard return by Ruiz, into a 41-yard scoring drive, capped by Marro Lee's second touchdown run of the game for 15 yards at the 2:55 mark of the fourth quarter.
The 27-12 lead didn't last long however, as Muema-Washington hit Kevon Seymour on a screen pass that the athletic Seymour stretched into an 85-yard touchdown with a subsequent two-point conversion to make it 27-20 at the 2:23 mark.
"Everything we said all week we couldn't do, we didn't do until the end of the game," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team improved to 4-1 and 2-0 in league. "We had a breakdown and the one guy we don't cover is their best player."
As CV tried to run out the clock on the ground, Lee lost a fumble on the Muir 45-yard line with 1:43 left, giving Muir's offense a golden opportunity.
The drive would reach the 34-yard line where Muir (2-3, 0-2 in league) got a first down before Ruiz ended the threat with his final pick.
Despite going backward on offense and being careless with the ball for most of the first half, Muir led 6-0 early and trailed by only four points, 10-6, at halftime.
On the Falcons' first play from scrimmage after receiving the opening kickoff to start the second half, Lee fumbled at the end of a 20-yard run and Muir looked certain to take the lead when it was set up with a first and goal at the CV two-yard line.
But the Falcons defense held fast, stopping the Mustangs on third down with a sack, before blocking a 22-yard field goal to keep Muir off the scoreboard altogether.
After the blocked field goal, on the next possession the Falcons turned right around and marched the ball 90 yards to take a 17-6 lead on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Zac Wilkerson to Ruiz at the 5:45 mark.