When Matt Pringle of Santa Monica High School barely missed on a game-winning field goal attempt from 37 yards with 11 seconds remaining, it was a fitting end to Friday's game between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
In a game that could have determined the Ocean League title, the teams tripped over themselves and settled for a 10-10 tie at Beverly Hills.
The teams traded turnovers in the first half. Beverly Hills had two passes intercepted in the end zone by Tate Nelson and fumbled once, and Santa Monica fumbled three times. Santa Monica finally took advantage of one of the miscues, recovering a fumble and driving 39 yards to score with 12 seconds left in the first half. Quarterback Randy Bongard passed five yards to tight end John Kettler for the touchdown.
Beverly Hills drove 59 yards to tie the game in the third quarter, Willie Crawford culminating the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
Santa Monica came right back when Glyn Milburn returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to set up a 42-yard field goal by Pringle that gave Santa Monica a 10-7 lead 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
After the field goal, Beverly Hills took over at its 23, and on the second play of the drive, Jason Goldberg's pass was intercepted by Nelson. But Santa Monica was called for defensive holding, so the Normans kept the ball.
They proceeded to advance to a first and goal at the Viking five, where the drive stalled. Goldberg fumbled a snap from center, and two running plays by Crawford lost two yards. Gary Melnik kicked a 24-yard field goal to tie the game.
After that, the Norman offense merely played not to lose, in part because Crawford, their leading rusher, had twisted his left knee while playing defense and had left the game, and also because of poor field position. Santa Monica managed to drive to the Norman 20, where Pringle's attempt to win the game went wide to the right.
The tie left only one team satisfied.
Beverly Hills Co-Coach Dick Billingsley said he told his players it was "like kissing a good-looking sister."
Santa Monica Coach Tebb Kusserow was furious, not only with the tie but with Beverly Hills.
"I have no bit of respect for their coaching staff," Kusserow said. "In a league championship game . . . they play for the tie.
"We don't teach our kids to play for ties."
Santa Monica, the Times' ninth-ranked team, is 6-1-1 overall, 3-0-1 in the Ocean League. Beverly Hills is 7-1-1 and 3-0-1. If both teams win next week, they would share the league title.
In other games Friday:
Southern Section St. John Bosco 32, Crespi 27--The Braves rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to beat the Celts in a battle of undefeated Del Rey teams at Crespi. Trailing, 21-12, at halftime, Oscar Meza led the Braves' second-half rally, running for two touchdowns, including a 14-yard score with 1:29 left. Meza finished with 151 yards in 23 carries. Crespi sophomore running back Russell White ran for 155 yards in 14 carries, and J.J. Lasley added 101 yards in 16 carries. St. John Bosco is 9-0 overall, 4-0 in the Del Rey League. Crespi is 8-1, 3-1.
Oxnard 17, Ventura 14--Oxnard won the Channel League championship as Jose Baez kicked a 24-yard field goal with no time left. Oxnard is 9-0, 6-0 in league play. Ventura (6-2-1) is in second place at 4-1-1. Behind, 14-6, at halftime, Oxnard scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. Mike Russell caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Juan Moreno, and the Yellowjackets added a two-point conversion before Baez kicked his game-winner. Baez's field goal was set up when Ralph Prito returned an interception to the Ventura three with two minutes remaining. Oxnard's Wayne Jones gained 126 yards in 24 carries to bring his season total to 1,103 yards in 161 carries.
Colton 41, Moreno Valley 20--In this Citrus Belt League game at Colton, George Hemingway, the Southern Section's rushing leader, had 365 yards and 4 touchdowns in 38 carries. In nine games, Hemingway has 1,864 yards in 223 carries. Colton is 7-2 overall, 5-1 in league play. Moreno Valley is 0-9 and 0-6.
Tustin 9, Saddleback 7--The win gave the Tillers their first league championship since 1955 and breaks the defending Central Conference Roadrunners' 17-game win streak. Tim Kotlar, a junior, had three field goals for Tustin--the last a 40-yarder with 9:11 left in the game. Tustin is 8-1 and 4-0. Saddleback is 8-1 and 4-1.
Damien 17, Upland 10--With 1:10 remaining at Damien, junior linebacker Charles Lough intercepted a Greg Fiorindo pass and ran it back 29 yards for the winning touchdown, clinching the Baseline League title for Spartans. Upland had tied the game with 1:11 left in the third quarter on Chuck Caldwell's 8-yard touchdown run. Damien running back Eric Henley rushed 14 times for 64 yards. Damien is 7-2 overall and 6-0 in the league. Upland is 8-2 and 4-2.