FULLERTON — In what could prove to be the pivotal game in determining the Freeway League champion, Sonora Coach Mark Takkinen proved himself a prophet on nearly every account.
For his Raiders to beat defending champion Troy--which they did, 17-15, in front of a Troy homecoming crowd of about 800 at Fullerton High--Takkinen expected the Warriors to run well but not pass well, but his team to do both. He also expected turnovers to have a huge impact.
Absolutely right. The Warriors rushed (6-2, 2-1) for 314 yards--209 by Larry Montgomery. He scored every Troy point--two touchdowns (setting a school record with 16 on the year) and a two-point conversion, giving Troy a short-lived 15-14 lead with 2:47 left to play. But Warrior quarterback Kevin Gray completed only one pass in five attempts, and even that 15-yarder worked against him and his team; receiver Jim Wise fumbled at the goal line, the ball bounced through the end zone and the Raiders got the ball on a touchback.
Meanwhile Sonora (5-3, 3-0) had 235 yards rushing--137 by Sam Escobar. They could also throw; quarterback Kevin Rodriguez, despite two interceptions, passed for 125 yards and two first-half touchdowns, both to Mark Gonzalez.
But Takkinen could not have predicted how the Raiders would score the winning points. After taking the lead, Troy tried on on-side kick and recovered the ball just short of the 50. By not traveling the required 10 yards, the ball was given to the Raiders, who drove down to the Warrior 10 to set up Wes Hale's 27-yard field goal with 23 seconds left.
"I knew I had it all the way," said Hale, who missed a 50-yard attempt in the second quarter. "It was just a regulation kick from that distance."
Takkinen termed the on-side kick "a great call" by Troy Coach John Turek. "I'm just glad it didn't go 10 yards because we were backing away from it."
"It was a great game for them. We made too many mistakes," Turek said, referring to the fumble and interception that Sonora turned into 14 points in the second quarter.
Both teams came in missing key performers. The Warriors were lacking running back Ryl Relatores, whose sprained ankle had not sufficiently healed. Replacement Larry Vasquez rushed for 95 yards in 13 carries. Sonora was without receiver Junior Rodriguez (broken hand) and lineman Eric Kemmer (broken leg). The Raiders did welcome running back Chris Anderson, playing for the first time in nearly a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.