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Field Goal on Final Play Lifts Esperanza


As difficult as the Division I playoffs will be, they won't be any harder--at least emotionally--than the game Sunset League rivals Esperanza and Fountain Valley played Friday.

The game not only went down to the final play, it went down to the final second before the third-ranked Aztecs beat the fifth-ranked Barons, 19-17, before an estimated 6,000 at Valencia High.

Nick Fikse kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired, securing second place in league and perhaps home-field advantage in the first round for Esperanza (9-1, 4-1). The Aztecs' only loss this season was to top-ranked and league champion Los Alamitos.

Fikse, who had missed two long field-goal attempts and had an extra point blocked, said he wasn't nervous on the winning kick.

"I always play this song 'War, what is it good for' in my mind before I kick," Fikse said. "It relaxes me. And I got a great snap from center and great blocking from the line."

Fountain Valley (7-3, 3-2) was incredulous that Fikse had gotten to kick the ball at all. And after rallying from a 16-6 fourth-quarter deficit to take a 17-16 lead on Aaron Carter's 27-yard field goal with 25 seconds left, it made the loss that much more painful for Fountain Valley. Starting at its own 33-yard line, Aztecs quarterback Grant Wagner, who threw for a 139 yards but was intercepted three times, completed passes of 26 yards to Nick Vicencia and 13 yards to Nick Ashabraner to take Esperanza to the Fountain Valley 28.

With nine seconds left, the Aztecs gambled on a running play; Jarod Schuster, who rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns in 26 carries, motored 24 yards to the Barons' 4-yard line.

Then the confusion started. Fountain Valley was certain time had run out before Esperanza had called a timeout. But the clock had stopped with one second left, and the Aztecs got their final play--Fikse's winning kick.

"I knew the run had taken a long time and I wasn't sure if we got the timeout called," Schuster said.

Coach George Berg was certain the Barons were robbed.

"No official on the field had stopped the clock," Berg said. "The timekeeper had stopped it. The game was done.

"It was a great game. Both defenses did a great job. I'm just very disappointed on how it ended."

The teams played a tension-filled first half that was highlighted by the running of Schuster. Schuster scored two touchdowns on runs of 53 and 20 yards to give Esperanza a 13-6 lead at halftime. The Barons got their lone touchdown on a 33-yard pass from Ryan Breska to David Helenihi in the second quarter.

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