LANCASTER — Canyon High's record winning streak ended Friday night when Antelope Valley stopped quarterback Ken Sollom short of the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt with 16 seconds left to preserve a 21-20 victory.
Trailing, 21-0, in the fourth quarter, Canyon fought mightily for a miracle. Sollom, who had been held to fewer than 100 yards passing, hit Chad Zeigler with a 19-yard scoring pass, led a drive that ended on an eight-yard Lance Cross scoring run and finally moved the Cowboys 41 yards on two passes, the second a 13-yard strike to Ernie Figueroa in the end zone.
Incredibly, Canyon, after being badly outplayed throughout the game, was a two-point conversion away from victory. On an option play, however, Sollom was stopped by Harold Morrow and James Richards at the two.
Sollom reverse-pivoted and could have pitched to Cross. He elected to keep the ball, however, and Canyon's streak ended.
"Our kids never lost their poise and never panicked," Canyon Coach Harry Welch said. "This was inevitable."
There was no second-guessing on the decision to go for two points.
"How else can you win?" he said.
The streak nearly had a life of its own and did not die easily. It took 252 yards rushing by Antelope tailback Eric Mortensen--and it took two touchdowns by Antelope Valley special teams.
But Canyon's run of victories, dating back to 1983, ended at 46. The streak was the nation's longest, fell one shy of the state record, and equaled the Southern Section record set by Temple City from 1969 to 1973.
With the victory, Antelope Valley (7-1-1) took over sole possession of first place in the Golden League with a 4-0 record. Canyon is 8-1 and 3-1.
"For a moment I was shaking in my shoes," Mortensen, who piled up his yardage on 39 carries, said of the final moments. "But this feels great. It's the best game ever."
Sollom finished with 15 completions on 29 attempts for 184 yards. Cross gained 66 yards on 17 carries.
Antelope Valley scored twice in the first half on breakdowns by the Canyon punt team, and increased its lead to three touchdowns by taking the second-half kickoff and marching 73 yards.
The Cowboys appeared to be finished at that point. But, as it turned out, they were not.
Sollom took Canyon 80 yards on eight plays for the first touchdown. After Cross gained 10 on a draw, Sollom hit Zeigler for 26, ran for 12 himself and gave to Cross for 13 more. After an incomplete pass, Sollom hit Zeigler in the corner of the end zone.
Mortensen, who scored his 20th touchdown of the season in the third quarter, fumbled on the Antelopes' next possession. Passes from Sollom of 21 and 24 yards to Figueroa advanced the Cowboys to the eight. Cross scored on a draw. It was 21-14 with 1:20 left.
Canyon used all its timeouts as Antelope Valley ran Mortensen on three successive plays. A punt by Ricky Cage traveled only 18 yards, giving Canyon the ball on the Antelope Valley 41 with 31 seconds left.
Sollom hit Zeigler down the right sideline for 28 yards and a first down on the 13 with 16 seconds left. Figueroa, a 5-4 reserve, raced over the middle and snared Sollom's pass in the end zone on the next play to close the gap to 21-20.
Antelope Valley called time out, allowing Welch to take his time and call the play he believed would gain three yards on the conversion attempt. He opted for an option and Sollom opted to keep rather than pitch to Cross.
The quarterback, whose valiant effort throughout the fourth quarter has to rank with the finest performances in the winning streak, was tackled two yards from the goal line.
"I thought perhaps he should have pitched it," Welch said. He gave pause, however, and added: "No, I shouldn't say that until I see the film.
"How can I second guess a young man who accomplished so much?"
After the immediate emotional outpouring following the game, the Canyon mood was mostly one of resignation. Welch had lost his cool after Antelope Valley's second score and picked up two penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. After the game, though, he was gracious, shaking hands with players and smiling warmly to Antelope Valley Coach Brent Newcomb.
"I'm sorry the officials played such an unfortunate role," Welch said. "There is no doubt that Antelope Valley played extremely well and deserved the win."