Galileo Wins 6A State Championship
Lions Storm Back in Third Quarter for State Title
|Vincent Memorial Scots||14||06||20|
On the biggest stage in their football history, Galileo’s offense scored on the first play of their first possession then fizzled quickly to allow Vincent Memorial a 14-8 halftime lead. Senior receiver, Erasmo Rivas took a bubble screen pass from Adrian Poot for 23 yards into the endzone after dodging two Scots defenders and out-racing another to the left pylon. Yarvell Smith hammered home the point-after to make it an improbable 8-0 lead. Just minutes ago, the Scots had taken the opening possession and converted on three fourth down plays to land on Galileo’s five yard line before outside linebacker, Jackie Guo intercepted a pass for the third consecutive game and raced 74 yards to set up Rivas’ score. Another Galileo defensive stop led to Poot’s fumble at Galileo’s 25 yard line. Vincent Memorial turned that opportunity into points on a quarterback keeper by Eduardo Valenzuela. The point-after kick made it an 8-7 game.
The next sequence of plays took an eerie turn for both teams. Early in the second quarter, the Scots forced the Lions to punt then Valenzuela was intercepted by Galileo’s defensive tackle, Mikah Coleman and in trying to make a tackle, Valenzuela injured his shoulder severely and did not return to the contest. Despite the disappointment with the loss of their offensive leader, the Scots rallied on the strength of their defense and like all season long, their play-makers made plays. Following a late second quarter Ronald Fox interception, it was Galileo’s turn to draw some bad luck. On the last play of the second half, a Scots defender grabbed onto Poot who was trying to make a pass and as Poot released the ball, a leaping defender batted the pass backwards into the sure hands of their outside linebacker, Juan Pablo Ruiz. Ruiz ran into the end zone and just like that, the Scots took the lead, 13-8. The Scots made it a 6-point game with the point-after kick. Down 14-8, the Lions were left deflated with a long march back to the visitors’ locker room through the shadows of the Calexico night.
Fortunately for Galileo, there was another half to play and on this clear cool night, they only needed five offensive plays spanning five minutes of the third quarter to change San Francisco history. At the 7-minute mark, Galileo put a strangle-hold on this contest with an emphatic 32-14 lead. The offensive blitz started on the first play after kick-off; Fox took a hand-off and wiggled his way through the middle of the defense then exploded for 56 yards up the left sideline, close enough to hear some Scots players gasp. “I knew we had to take the lead so when I saw the hole, I shot through and took off from there,” said Fox. Offensive linemen, Johan Lacayo and Andy Ix were the culprits who sprung Fox loose. Lacayo and Ix and the rest of Galileo’s much maligned offensive line was just warming up to the tune of 7 rushes for 3 TD’s and 2 2-PT conversions. The AAA Player of the Year, Yarvell Smith finished what Fox started with a 28-yard run to tie the game at 14 each. Poot gave the Lions the lead for good by converting on a quarterback sneak for the point-after.
Galileo’s stellar defense continued to stifle the Scots to force a punt at it’s 5 yard line. With the ball back, the Lions’ hand-off to Smith for 4-yards seemed like a waste of time when followed by another Fox highlight sprint, a 33-yard strike to the heart of Vincent Memorial, putting Galileo up 22-14. Guo tacked on another 2 points by joining the Lions’ stampede with a 3-yard rush to make it a 24-14 game.
The Lions weren’t done yet. The Scots’ next possession included 3 plays under duress; defensive tackles Coleman and Lacayo provided pressure to force a QB sprint out of bounds, defensive tackle Ahmed Balwi broke up a screen play, and linebacker, Jimmie Edwards tracked down the quarterback for a 14-yard sack. Vincent Memorial punted and the Lions went back to work. This time, Edwards was awarded for his brilliant defensive play when offensive coordinator, Marcus Blacksher Jr. called his number. With the ball, Edwards dipped inside of Guo’s attempted block to draw the corner then bounced back out and race down the right sideline for 39 yards to put the game away, simultaneously sucking the life out of the stadium. Guo’s amazing 1-hand grab for the point-after was ho-hum as Galileo’s sideline was still buzzing about Edwards’ feat. Five minutes into the third quarter, Galileo was running away with the 6A State Championship, 32-14.
In the eternal fourth quarter, Poot’s 10-yard scamper gained a first down for Galileo and Fox punched in his second score with a 10-yard run. Galileo’s 38-14 lead was shortlived when the Scots executed a throw-back lateral to senior, Ivan Avalos who raced past a group of Lions and scored on an 81-yard kick off return. The stadium was roaring again despite a failed 2-point try. Down 38-20, Vincent Memorial recovered the muffed on-side kick and started to march down the field with the clock also as their enemy. Having gained a first down at Galileo’s 7 with 5:30 left in the game, the Scots were knocking on the door of a potential comeback. In the end, it was Galileo’s defense that shined brightest. Liken to the city semi-final playoff game that ended with an interception, the city championship game with two first half defensive scores and a 38-0 halftime lead, and allowing only 2 scores in the Norcal title game to a high scoring team, Galileo’s defensive performance stayed true to form on this final stop–with the Scots on a 4th and 1 at Galileo’s 1, senior linebacker, Dasan King sliced through the B-gap and body-pressed the ball carrier down on the half yard line to signal the exit of this great post-season defensive run as they would not take the field again. The Lions offense came onto the field with 3:30 remaining and the ball spotted on it’s half yard line. Poot got the Lions out of the danger zone with a 5-yard QB sneak behind the legs of his offensive line. Smith followed with a 5-yard first down run that allowed Galileo’s sideline to begin the celebration of it’s first state championship in school and city history.
The “Man of the Match” is awarded to Fox who finished with 146 yards on 11 carries, scoring on runs of 33 and 10. On defense, Fox tallied 6 tackles, 1 interception and knocked down 2 passes. Naturally, the “Defensive Player of the Game” mantle belongs to the AAA Defensive Player of the Year, Jimmie Edwards who led the team with 12 tackles, 5 sacks, and 4 hurries. And lastly, a “Most Inspirational Performance” award must be given to the sensational sophomore, Smith for his workmanlike 18 carries for 91 yards, including a 28-yard score and a 2-point score. He added 11 tackles and knocked down a pass in the end zone.
“This Jimmie Edwards guy is something special. He has a motor that never stops,” said coach Mark Huynh. “I’m so glad he scored on that long run. He deserves that for all the hard work he puts in on defense.”
Although Galileo hung it’s hat on sophomore running back, Smith and senior quarterback, Poot all season, it is the well-rounded team effort that had propelled the Lions into the history books. Evidence can be found throughout this game alone; 6 different players scored (Smith, Fox, Edwards, Guo, Rivas, Poot), 3 different players intercepted passes (Fox, Guo, Coleman), and different defenders making key plays (the 3 picks, Edwards pressure, Balwi & Lacayo controlling the line of scrimmage, the Duran-Fox-Smith trio of batted passes, TD-saving tackles from King and Andres Arguijos who went from DB to OLB for this game, and a slew of tackles for loss). Defensively speaking, a special note must be given to Guo who had one of the greatest post-season individual runs ever by a Galileo defender-not playing defense all season, Guo was inserted into the starting lineup for the last three contests. In the city championship, he had a 57-yard pick-6; in the Norcal game, it was a 2-yard pick-6; and in the State Championship, he ran out of gas after returning a pick for 74 yards to the Scots’ 23. “I was just in the right place at the right time. My teammates are a big help, reminding me to be patient and the pass will come my way,” said Guo. “On that 74-yard run, I got really tired at the end and couldn’t cut back. It would’ve been nice to score.”
“It was a long journey and we finally made it to the end. I’m proud of this team. We always show up and give everything we got and leave it all on the field,” commented Poot while reflecting on this long and historic season. Indeed, they gave it everything they got in this game and in this season but Galileo didn’t leave anything on the field at Calexico, instead, they took home the 6A State Championship, trophy and all.
Photos by R. Schnitzer