LA CAÑADA — There was only a few feet between victory and defeat, on several different occasions, for La Cañada High's football team when it hosted Arroyo, which came into the game ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division polls, Friday night.
The Knights just held on to a 23-21 win at La Cañada, as the Spartans had two chances to take a lead in the fourth quarter, once with two minutes left.
"This is a very good football team," La Cañada Coach Dan Yoder said. "I am very proud of how our guys came out and they played inspired defense. If we can keep that going throughout league I think we will be OK."
La Cañada missed a 47-yard field goal with 3:52 left in the game, as Arroyo clung to a 23-21 advantage. The Spartans had one more shot after a three-and-out from the Knights. Facing a fourth-and-three at Arroyo's 34-yard line, the Spartans drew an offsides to move the chains. The drive was derailed seconds later when the Knights recovered a fumble on the next play, allowing them to run the clock out and maintain their two-point lead.
La Cañada (1-3) held an early 8-0 lead less than four minutes into the game after its defense tallied a safety against Arroyo on its first play from scrimmage. The Spartans then put together a seven-play, 48 yard drive that quarterback Grant Owen capped off with a 12-yard touchdown run.
"The guys were all kinds of pumped up [after that start]," Yoder said. "Success breeds success, but we got to keep that ball rolling. It's hard to do for 48 minutes."
Arroyo's quarterback, Steven Rivera, answered back, hitting Hunter Duran on a 20-yard touchdown pass, on fourth-and-nine, cutting the lead to 8-7 with 6:26 left in the first quarter.
La Cañada responded with two straight touchdowns, the first on an 18-yard run from Andy Paynter and the second on a 64-yard scamper from Owen with 7:04 left in the second quarter. The scores gave La Cañada a 21-7 lead after a missed extra point.
Owen passed for just 34 yards, but ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in 13 carries. Spartans fullback Kyle Herron finished the game with 84 rushing yards in 15 carries and caught three passes for 35 yards.
The Spartans' 14-point lead dwindled to five points, 21-16, after the Spartans gave up a safety and Rivera hit Duran with a 45-yard touchdown pass with 3:00 to go in the half. Rivera completed 16 of 30 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
Rivera was responsible for what ended up being the last touchdown of the game, running into the end zone from eight yards out, giving his team its first lead of the game, 23-21, with 5:29 to go in the third quarter. The score was set up by a 54-yard run from Peter Aholoka, the Knights' running back who had 136 yards in 13 carries.