VISTA — The team of the present beat the team of the past Friday when Vista High ended Morse's string of championship appearances.
For the first time in five years, Morse won't be making an appearance at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. The way it looked in front of about 5,000 partisan fans, Vista will be taking their place.
The top-seeded Panthers overcame a 10-3 fourth-quarter deficit and a record-breaking performance by Gary Taylor to win their 12th game in a row and advance into next week's semifinal game against the winner of tonight's Orange Glen-Mira Mesa contest.
But their victory over Morse (7-5) did not come easy. The team that beat Vista in the quarterfinals last might have forced an overtime if not for a couple of big plays by linebacker Chato Jackson, who sacked Morse quarterback Cary Taylor on third and 31 with less than a minute left, then stopped him in the open field three yards short of the first down on the next play.
"I can't recall any bigger plays than that," Jackson said.
Vista's Morgan Knox had two touchdown catches, and quarterback Eric Jencks was nine for 22 for 176 yards.
He threw a 14-yard touchdown to Knox, who stood all alone in the back of the end zone, jumping up and down and waving his arms. Jencks didn't see Knox right away--he was too busy trying to save himself. He threw the ball from the 35 while trying to avoid the rush.
"I thought he was going to be sacked," Knox said of Jencks. "As he threw it, I knew I was going to catch it."
Knox had a season-high five catches for 97 yards. His fifth came on third-and-eight slant pattern. Knox caught the pass, made a little move on Ray Barnes and completed a 46-yard scoring play with 3:08 left in the game.
"The kids played well, I thought we had them," Morse Coach John Shacklett said. "It's not an easy loss."
Morse had a chance to tie after Vista took the lead. Taylor completed a 31-yard pass to Dwain Bostic to give give the Tigers a first down at the 23 with 2:03 left, but a holding penalty nullified the paly. Then Jackson sacked Taylor and cut him short on the last play of the game.
Morse's Gary Taylor carried 15 times for 89 yards, giving him 4,505 yards in his career, surpassing Rancho Buena Vista's O.J. Hall (4,486 yards) as the section's all-time leading rusher.
Taylor was headed to the hospital after the game, apparently in need of stitches above his right eye. He was injured in the third quarter, but still played.
Conan Smith led Morse, carrying 14 times for 110 yards.
Glenn Steele's interception set up Morse's first score, Jorge Suffle's 27-yard field goal on the last play of the first quarter.
Then Barnes' 52-yard over-the-shoulder reception set up a one-yard Smith touchdown before Vista scored in the final seconds of the half on a 24-yard field goal by Pon Manithip.