What no team had done in the past 20 games, Saddleback High School did Friday with a play that Coach Jerry Witte said was "drawn in the dirt."
The Roadrunners upset defending Central Conference champion Bolsa Grande, defeating the Matadors, 36-33, in a game that Saddleback once trailed by 20 points, Friday night in front of 5,000 in Santa Ana Stadium.
Faced with a do-or-die play on fourth-and-10 at the Bolsa 28 with less than a minute remaining, Sean Therien hit running back Hymie Thurmond with a pass as he was streaking down the left sideline. A Bolsa Grande defender hauled him down at the one-yard line, but the damage was done. Therien threw the winning touchdown pass to Mike Royos on the next play with but 26 seconds remaining.
Saddleback's John Bright made it emphatic with a sack of Bolsa Grande quarterback Damon Fisher on the game's final play.
The pass play to Thurmond was one Saddleback (7-4-1) had never practiced.
"That was a brand new play," Witte said. "We just made it up right then."
They had to do something.
Bolsa Grande, which had not lost a game on the field in its past 20 games, although it was forced to forfeit five games earlier this week because of the use of an ineligible player, had come back to take the lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Matadors, fighting to stay alive in the second round of the Central Conference playoffs, had responded to a Saddleback lead with a 71-yard touchdown pass play from Damon Fisher to Mark Miller that had given them the lead with 2:10 remaining. It turned out to be too much time, and not enough points.
"We just couldn't hold them," Bolsa Coach Greg Shadid said. "I think our players were ready for this game. We came so close--fourth and 10--but we couldn't do it."
Witte, after pulling the big upset, was calm in the midst of celebration.
"Somebody has to be," he said.
Bolsa Grande had dominated the game throughout the first half, taking a 20-7 halftime lead and pounding the Roadrunners with the running attack of Fisher, Travin Lui and Ricky Lepule. Lepule rushed for 155 yards in the first half, and 203 in the game, but it was all in a futile effort.
In the second half, Saddleback shut down the Matador runners and Therien became effective as a passer.
The Roadrunners scored 14 third quarter points and 15 in the fourth.
But even with the lead and 26 seconds remaining, it didn't look safe.
Bolsa Grande had scored three touchdowns on plays of more than 70 yards in the game.
But a fourth was not to be.
As most Saddleback players still stood celebrating at midfield after the victory which earned them a semifinal berth opposite Anaheim next week, one of their teammates called to them as he headed for the lockers.
"Come on you guys, we've got next week."
Bolsa Grande, for the first time in a long, long time, did not.