It was the right call. Or was it?
"I don't know," Canyon Coach Harry Welch said. "If I had to do it five different times, I'd probably call five different plays."
Entering tonight's Golden League game against visiting Antelope Valley, Canyon puts its 27-game home-field winning streak on the line. The game, however, immediately brings to mind the Cowboys' 46-game winning streak, which came to an end the last time Canyon played Antelope Valley. One year later, Welch remembers vividly the play that brought to an end what is known in Canyon Country as "The Streak."
With 16 seconds to play, Canyon trailed, 21-20, and needed a two-point conversion to tie Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman for the state's longest streak and break Temple City's Southern Section record.
"I don't know about my coaching sometimes," Welch said. "I've been criticized for not making more sense with my play calling. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time."
That Canyon had a chance to win at all was an accomplishment in itself. With the Cowboys trailing, 21-0, after three quarters, quarterback Ken Sollom led a fourth-quarter comeback. Sollom, now redshirting at Michigan, threw two touchdown passes and tailback Lance Cross ran eight yards for another to bring the Cowboys back. Sollom's second touchdown pass, a 13-yard strike to Ernie Figueroa, pulled the Cowboys to within a point.
A conversion kick would have tied the score, but Welch never considered it.
"It was a quick decision. We were out of timeouts," he said. "We just went for it."
Sollom rolled left behind fullback Paul Chadwell with Cross trailing. "It was a speed option," Welch said. "Chadwell blocks a fella into Ken and Ken spins. That spin let the pursuit make the tackle."
Said tackle Sean Sweetnam: "Ken made the right decision. The pitch was taken away. He tried to turn upfield like he was coached to do."
Linebacker Tommie Smith hit Sollom and the quarterback went down beneath a swarm of tacklers.
"We were waiting for what seemed like an eternity for them to unpile," guard Dom Spainhower said. "Ain't nothin' worse than waiting for the ref's call."
After the pile had been pried apart, Canyon's streak was dead by the measure of less than a yard.
"It was an emotional moment," Welch said "Cheerleaders cried. People who had never had sons on the team cried. I was a little sad. I wished it could have continued for the rest of the people."
Antelope Valley supporters shed no tears.
"It put us on the map," Coach Brent Newcomb said. "We'd never gotten that much ink. I had Len Berman from NBC calling me and USA Today; Channel 4, Channel 7. It was all because of Canyon."
The Antelopes won the league title. Canyon finished second and was eliminated by Muir, 22-14, in the third round of the Coastal Conference playoffs. Antelope Valley was crushed by Muir, 37-0, in the championship game.
This season's meeting again is an important one. Canyon (6-2, 3-0), in a first-place tie with Palmdale, is almost assured of a playoff berth. Antelope Valley (2-1 in league) cannot afford another loss.
"This year it's an even bigger game for us," Newcomb said. "Canyon's in the playoffs; we're not."
Bad flashbacks: Memories of last season's Loyola-Crespi game haunt running back Russell White, who was held to a season-low 96 yards rushing in Crespi's 21-14 victory. He also lost two fumbles and seemed rattled in the first half.
"That was a hard night and I've been hearing about it all week," he said at practice. "Ninety-six yards, I'm never going to forget that."
White, who averages 186 yards a game and 11.3 a carry this season, promises to give Loyola a night to remember when the teams meet Saturday at 8 p.m. at Birmingham High. A crowd of about 11,000 is expected for the Del Rey League showdown between two nationally ranked teams.
Crespi (7-0-1, 3-0 in the league) is ranked No. 8 in the nation by USA Today and Loyola (8-0, 3-0) is ranked No. 14.
"I guarantee I won't have another 96-yard game," he said. "Another 96-yard game would be ugly."
White confidently predicted a 200-yard game, then reconsidered.
"I just want to play as well as I can and get as many yards as I can," he said. "I just want to have fun."
Add Crespi: Crespi has guaranteed that at least 5,000 tickets for Saturday's Loyola game have been set aside for game-day sale beginning at 4:30 p.m.
"Tickets are moving, but we don't want to give anybody the impression that there won't be any tickets left," Crespi Athletic Director Paul Muff said. "We'll be holding 5,000 of them for Saturday and possibly more depending on how the pre-sale goes."
Pre-sale tickets are available at the Loyola activities office and at the Crespi athletic office between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. today. Muff said pre-sale ticket holders will hold no advantage, because all tickets are general admission.