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THE HIGH SCHOOLS : Welch Veers From Second-Guessing After Canyon Loss

November 09, 1986|JOHN LYNCH | Times Staff Writer

It was a rough night Friday for the Canyon football team. Ken Sollom, the quarterback, lay in bed, trying to sleep and feeling for all the world like the end of the streak was all his fault.

In another part of town, running back Paul Chadwell sat alone in the emergency room of a local hospital until 4 in the morning, playing the game in his mind over and over again while waiting for an X-ray of his injured left hand.

The coach didn't get much sleep either. Harry Welch awoke at 4 a.m. from a night of fitful rest and mourned the end of the streak. "I felt hollow, a void," Welch said.

It didn't get much easier for Welch when he ventured outside Saturday. He stopped off at his favorite 7-Eleven to pick up his coffee and newspapers. He was met at the counter by a well-wisher who threw his arm around the coach and said, "It was a great streak, a fabulous comeback and we love you, Harry. But why did you run an option play on the two-point conversion?"

Welch figures that question will haunt him for a while.

"It gnaws at me. I thought we had won it. I thought it was a Cowboy miracle," he said.

Antelope Valley outlawed miracles Friday night and ended the nation's longest current winning streak when Canyon's two-point conversion attempt failed with 16 seconds left. Antelope Valley's 21-20 victory ended Canyon's streak at 46, preventing the Cowboys from setting a Southern Section record and equaling the state mark.

Few at Canyon will forget the game or the way it ended. Canyon trailed, 21-0, with eight minutes left before mounting a furious rally behind the passing of Sollom. His 13-yard pass to Chad Zeigler gave Canyon its first touchdown, and Lance Cross' eight-yard run made it 21-14 with 1:20 left. After a short Antelope Valley punt, Canyon took over on the Antelopes' 41 with 31 seconds and no timeouts left. Two plays later, it was 21-20, Sollom connecting with Ernie Figueroa on a 13-yard scoring play.

Welch never thought of going for a tie. He called for an option play. Victory was just three yards away.

"I thought we had a great call," Welch said Saturday. "We moved the ball to the short side of the field, and went with an unbalanced line to the wide side. We sent a man in motion to the wide side, but we were going to the short side of the field. For some reason, Antelope Valley was there. It was the perfect position for them to be in.

"As it turned out, it wasn't a very good call."

Sollom spun to the short side of the field and never got going. He was tripped up at the line of scrimmage and then swarmed by the defense. He just lay on the field, thinking only one thing.

"Why didn't I pitch the ball?" he said.

That's what everyone wondered, even Welch.

"Last night I thought he should have pitched the ball, but after looking at the film, I'm glad he's the quarterback and not me," Welch said. "Sollom executed it perfectly. He should have turned it up field."

"I went to bed last night thinking I had blown the streak," said Sollom, who along with Zeigler, Chadwell and Cross hadn't lost a varsity game in three years at Canyon. "I thought it was my fault. After talking to Coach Welch, I feel a lot better."

Many of the Canyon players were feeling better by the end of Saturday's film session at school, taking solace in the team's dramatic rally.

"We had never been down that much before," Sollom said of the 21-0 deficit. "We came back in the fourth quarter and proved we're a championship team. We never lost confidence."

How will the Cowboys react to losing? Welch isn't sure.

"They feel the responsibility and the collective guilt of the streak, but that's not so. They helped make the streak, and they have to know that the coaches aren't going to desert them," he said.

Sollom is convinced the players won't desert each other.

"I think the loss has brought us closer together. We've all gone through this together, and we went down as a team," he said.

Chadwell echoed those sentiments. "Nobody wants to go through this again. There's been something missing this year. We haven't had that much senior leadership, but maybe now it's here."

Add Canyon: Welch praised the play of Antelope Valley but criticized the officiating. He was particularly upset by the fact that officials did not call two clipping penalties that he believed he observed on an 81-yard punt return that resulted in a touchdown.

Welch argued and was hit with successive unsportsmanlike penalties.

"I called a timeout and went out to the field and told the ref he missed two clipping calls. He flagged me and when I asked why he was flagging me, he said, 'Do you want another?' Well, like a fool, like a grade-school kid, I said, 'Sure.' So he did.

"I wasn't a very good role model, and I regret it."

Last add Canyon: Even if Welch wanted to play for a tie, he couldn't have. Tom Gahry injured his kicking leg on the preceding point-after touchdown and was unable to kick. Welch learned Saturday that Gahry will undergo knee surgery this week and is lost for the season.

Chadwell played the second half with a badly bruised left hand and a sore right shoulder. X-rays proved negative, and he is expected to play next week against Palmdale. Freshman defensive end Chris Peery is walking with a cane after injuring his right shin and is questionable for next week.

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