Fullerton High School dug itself a hole Friday night, tried to climb out, almost made it but was ultimately buried by the Bolsa Grande defense.
Down, 26-0, at halftime, Fullerton mounted a furious second-half rally, twice closing to within a touchdown, before losing, 39-28, in a first round Southern Section Central Conference playoff game at Bolsa Grande.
"Our kids went out with a lot of class," Fullerton Coach Martin Luczaj said. "We won the second half, but gave up those two touchdowns by our offense and that was the game."
Fullerton's offense outscored Bolsa Grande's offense in the second half, 28-0, but the Matadors' defense scored two touchdowns in the last two quarters to preserve the victory.
An estimated 3,000 people attending the game sat in stunned silence for much of the second half as Fullerton quickly chipped away at that 26-0 deficit, cutting it to 26-21 with three minutes to play in the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Mike Chacon.
Chacon scored three of Fullerton's four second-half touchdowns, all coming on short runs following turnovers by Bolsa Grande.
Twice, however, Fullerton returned the favor, with its most costly error coming when it had the ball on its 15-yard line, down 26-21, with 54 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Fullerton quarterback Aaron Acton threw a short and safe-enough pass to flanker Steve Pearson, who was hit and fumbled the ball. The ever-present Damon Fisher scooped it up and carried it in for the touchdown, putting Bolsa Grande up by a more comfortable 32-21 margin.
As he has done all season, Fisher came up with the big play for the Matadors when they needed it the most. Fisher, the Bolsa Grande quarterback, scored the first touchdown of the game by racing 91 yards on an option play on the Matadors' second play from scrimmage.
Fisher directed his team to three first-half touchdowns, the other two coming on a one-yard run by Shannon Valdez and a three-yard run by Ricky Lepule. Bolsa Grande also got a 37-yard field goal from Jose Cueva and a safety when the Fullerton punter was tackled in the end zone.
Following Fisher's fumble return for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, Fullerton scored again on another short run by Chacon to cut the lead to 32-28. Bolsa Grande linebacker David Lannon then returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown on Fullerton's next possession to account for the final margin of victory.
The victory helped Bolsa Grande (10-1) prove that it is hardly a fluke team this year. Fullerton, the 1984 Central Conference champion and a playoff regular, finished its season at 7-4.