In a word . . .
"Incredible," Canyon High Coach Harry Welch said. "Incredible, incredible, incredible."
Welch stood breathless, people throwing hugs at him from all directions, before breaking free.
When Welch is right, he's right. There is probably no better word to describe Canyon's second-half comeback against Pasadena on Friday night at Arcadia High.
With five seconds left, Tom Gahry booted a 31-yard field goal to lift Canyon to a 22-21 victory that carried the Cowboys into the semifinal round of the Coastal Conference playoffs. Next week, Canyon plays Channel Islands, a 39-21 winner over South Torrance on Friday.
"I've never seen a finish like this," Welch said. "When the game started, I had a full head of hair."
And so did most of the Canyon fans, who chanted "Tom-mee, Tom-mee," as the Cowboys lined up for the field-goal attempt. When Gahry's kick traveled just inside the right upright, the Cowboys and their fans went berserk.
"I've never felt that much pressure in my life," Gahry said. "I still can't believe I kicked it through."
Canyon special teams set up the game-winning field goal when linebacker Kevin Doss burst through the Pasadena line to block John McCoy's punt at the Canyon 47 with 1:38 to play.
Quarterback Rod Baltau, who had his best game of the season, completing 11 of 20 passes for 181 yards, hit tailback Chris Peery with two passes for 20 yards and a third to Clint Beauer for six yards.
But the two biggest plays of the drive were penalties against Pasadena for jumping offside--once on a fourth-and-one play to give the Cowboys a first down at the 39-yard-line.
"We hoped that would happen," Welch said.
After Peery's three-yard run moved the ball to the 14, Welch called in the field-goal unit, and Gahry kicked his fifth field goal in six attempts.
Trailing 21-7 at halftime, Canyon battled back with two third-quarter touchdowns. The Cowboys marched 52 yards in nine plays on their first possession for one score. Baltau threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Beauer to cap the drive. The extra point attempt failed when holder Ric Gombos was unable to handle a high snap from center.
Canyon marched 48 yards on its next possession. Baltau, who played with torn ligaments in his left knee, scored on a one-yard sneak.
Canyon, which trailed, 21-19, misfired on the two-point conversion when Peery was stopped at the three-yard line.
Pasadena turned two Canyon mistakes into 14 points in the first half. Robert Leary fumbled the opening kickoff at the Cowboys' 18-yard line and Vacheh Marganian recovered for Pasadena. Four plays later, fullback J. J. Hall scored a touchdown on a one-yard plunge.
Canyon marched 72 yards in 10 plays to tie the score on its next possession. Baltau completed two passes on the drive, the second a 35-yard completion to tight end Ken Holsenbeck at the Bulldogs' three-yard line. Baltau carried the final yard on a sneak.
The Cowboys' defense bottled up Pasadena on the Bulldogs' next possession, but Peery fumbled McCoy's punt on Canyon's 18-yard line and Kyle Washington recovered for Pasadena on the final play of the first quarter.
It took Pasadena four plays to extend its lead to 14-7. Quarterback David Griffiths passed four yards to Shaun Liddell for a touchdown.
"Our defense played fairly well," Welch said. "What did they have? Two 18-yard drives?"
Pasadena shut down Canyon's running attack, limiting the Cowboys to 45 yards. Peery, who played with a sprained ankle, was held to 21 yards in 14 carries.
"They were a good defensive team," Peery said. "It wasn't my ankle."
Pasadena rushed for 174 yards. Tailback John Lee led all ballcarriers with 91 yards in 17 carries.
Pasadena took a 21-7 halftime lead when Griffiths, who completed 4 of 8 passes for 50 yards, lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Phillips, four seconds before halftime.