SAN DIEGO — The two best friends may not agree, but there was no more appropriate ending to the San Diego Section 2-A football championship between San Marcos and San Pasqual high schools than the 14-14 tie Saturday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
San Pasqual Coach Mike Dolan and San Marcos Coach Ken Broach came up through the coaching ranks together and served as assistants to Bob Woodhouse at San Marcos in the early 1970s. They share similar offensive and defensive strategies.
And now their teams share the section title. San Pasqual finished 7-5-1. San Marcos, well accustomed to ties, is 6-4-4.
"You would think after a CIF championship game, after 14 weeks, people would be jumping up and down celebrating," Dolan said. "In two or three days, the players will realize that, hey, we are CIF champions and San Marcos is CIF champions. That doesn't tarnish either team."
San Marcos had an opportunity to win this game when Joel Neri attempted a 35-yard field goal with two seconds left in the game.
The stadium fell silent as Neri set to kick, but the ball sailed wide right.
Dolan was tempted to call time out before the play.
"I stopped myself," Dolan said. "I figured (Neri's) heart was in his throat, and I figured if I gave him a timeout, it might come back down again."
Said Neri: "A lot of players told me to calm down when I was going in. They said this was so easy, that there was no pressure for me. I thought I could make it."
San Marcos had definitely gained momentum after forcing San Pasqual to punt from its own 24-yard line.
San Marcos began the final drive from its own 44 with 11 seconds remaining. On the first play, quarterback Rick Ebert threw 39 yards to wide receiver Steve Baum, who caught the ball at the same time as defensive back Roger Hill but came down out of bounds with possession.
San Marcos immediately attempted the field goal.
The Knights had another opportunity to break the tie earlier in the fourth quarter.
On third and 10 from his own 40, Ebert threw to a wide-open Baum near the right sideline. Baum cut across the field and appeared to be headed for a sure touchdown when San Pasqual linebacker Jay Jures tackled him from behind, popping the ball loose. San Pasqual's Andy Loveland fell on the ball at his own 12.
San Marcos opened a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run by Jess Berrelleza, capping a 68-yard drive with 2:31 left in the first quarter. San Pasqual closed within one point on Juan Garcia's eight-yard sweep, but a bad snap ruined the PAT attempt.
San Marcos' option offense was dealt a severe blow midway through the second period when Ebert left the game with a sprained ankle, and that led immediately to a go-ahead touchdown for San Pasqual.
Broach sent in junior Kit Speratos, who had played a total of three series this season at quarterback. Surprisingly, he called for a pass on Speratos' second play. The off-target throw was intercepted by Rick Aschbrenner and returned 42 yards for the Knights' second touchdown. After Garcia's run on the conversion, San Pasqual led, 14-7.
"It was my fault; I put too much pressure on (Speratos)," Broach said. "Sometimes you think about strategy instead of the emotional thing the kid is going through."
San Marcos tied the game on Berrelleza's second touchdown, a one-yard run off tackle, with 4:37 left in the third quarter. The drive took 17 plays and covered 72 yards.
Just the fact that either of these teams advanced as far as the playoffs was unlikely, considering the season each had.
San Marcos was awarded an at-large playoff berth after it lost to San Pasqual in the final regular-season game, 6-0. San Marcos was the fourth-place team from the Avocado League and San Pasqual finished first after opening the season with four losses.
Dolan said that at least back then, the outlook appeared brighter than it did as he stood in the center of the field Saturday night after the loss.
"When we were 0-4, we knew we had another week to get the kids in to work out their depression," he said. "You could get them in early in the week and set some goals. Now we have to go turn in our gear, and we can't do anything about it."