ANTIOCH — Hello, North Coast Section!
The Vintage Crushers have officially crashed the party and put themselves squarely in the Div. 1 championship race.
“I don’t think anyone in the section even knows who we are at this point,” Crushers head coach Dylan Leach said of his program’s anonymity in its first year removed from the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Well, if they didn’t know before, the rest of the section had better take notice after the unsuspecting Crushers raced back from a 14-0 fourth quarter deficit to knock off No. 1 seed Antioch, 24-21 in double overtime, at Eells Stadium on Friday night.
A walk-off, 35-yard field goal from Eddy Gonzalez just barely inched over the goal post to seal the deal, truly embodying the Crushers’ efforts on the night.
“I told my team we’re not going home,” Gonzalez recalled of his exchanges with teammates just before his kick. “I was nervous, but I said, “We’re not going to go home. It’s going to go in and we’re going to celebrate tonight.’”
And celebrate they did as they walked off the field after clinching a spot in the semifinals.
“Me and Eddy have been talking about this kind of moment the whole week for him,” star running back Viliami Schaumkel said. “For us to have the game on the line and for him to kick this game-winning field goal, he did what he did and I just love the kid, man.”
Leach, like everyone else in attendance, felt butterflies as the kick hung in the air.
“I was like, ‘squeak … come on … get over,’ but hey, he made it,” Leach laughed. “I appreciate Eddy and what he did, but let’s be real. This game was won in four quarters and two overtimes. He was just a small piece of that puzzle.”
Indeed, Gonzalez’ kick was but the cherry on top of an astounding all-around showing for the Crushers (10-2). They needed every single piece of the pie to prevail in an adversity-filled game.
Michael Webber’s performance on defense was the first piece of that pie. The 5-foot-10 senior defensive back grabbed two first-quarter interceptions in coverage against 6-2 Antioch speedster Gaudie Campbell.
“I was just playing back,” Webber said. “We were on a bail (technique) for corners and I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
After Webber’s second interception, the Crushers took over at their own 41-yard line looking to put points on the board. But adversity struck when stud quarterback Jacob Aaron’s 29-yard run ended in a shoulder injury that kept the sophomore out for the remainder of the game.
With Aaron out, the drive stalled and Webber, Schaumkel and Troy Ghisletta were forced to alternate taking snaps to get the Crushers’ offense going.
As Vintage hesitated with their quarterback’s status in question, Antioch finally got going as Willem Karnthong unloaded a 39-yard touchdown pass to Campbell for a 7-0 lead.
Down by just seven points at halftime, however, Vintage felt good about its chances heading into the latter portion of the game. But the Crushers made the mistake of kicking it deep to Devonyae McClay, an electric return man who found a seam in the defense and was off to the races for an 89-yard score.
Just like that, it was 14-0 and the Crushers were officially on the brink of elimination.
Understanding its season was on the line, Vintage assembled another long, methodical drive. The Crushers drove across the field over 13 plays, taking 8:31 off the clock, yet still came up empty after a failed fourth-down conversion.
While they were held scoreless once again, the Crushers knew they were simply two big-plays from tying their ball game against the top team in the playoff bracket. They knew if they stuck to their guns and scratched and clawed for their lives, they’d have a shot.
“We knew going in what we were going up against,” Leach said. “We got down 14 to nothing and I told the kids ‘We won’t change a thing. We’re not going to panic. I don’t panic. We’re not going to start running things we don’t run.’
“We actually reverted to our power run game and just took it to them in the second half.”
The Crushers got the ball back with 27 seconds to play in the third quarter, accepted the challenge ahead of them, and marched down the field with a 12-play drive that ended with a 5-yard Schaumkel touchdown run.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Vintage’s big-play prayers were answered as Colton Fisher recovered an errant snap at Antioch’s 14-yard line.
Four plays after that, Schaumkel found himself in the end zone again and suddenly the score was tied at 14.
Schaumkel finished the game with 17 carries for 89 yards and all three Crusher touchdowns to put his tally at 22 scores on the season.
However, the Panthers did anything but roll over and pat Vintage on the back. There was still 5:16 left on the clock. With all of that time on their side, Antioch managed to drive down the field to set up a potential game-winning field goal from 35 yards out for Omar Curiel. He missed, however, extending a game that nobody was finished fighting.
With more time for the Crushers to scratch, kick and claw their way to victory, Schaumkel muscled his way across the goal line from 3 yards away on the third play of overtime to give Vintage a 21-14 lead.
But Antioch had an answer named Campbell. He corralled a 14-yard touchdown pass from Karnthong in the far right corner of the end zone on third down, just past the outstretched arms of Webber.
Suddenly, it was double overtime and the intensity somehow was ratcheted up another notch.
With the intensity in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife, Vintage rose to the occasion and stuffed the Panthers to force another field goal.
Curiel lined up for the 30-yarder and everyone at Eells Stadium held their breath.
Wide left …
And though the Crushers were not able to punch it into the end zone, Gonzalez made sure their comeback efforts were not for nothing.
“(Heart is) all we talk about,” Leach said. “That’s who we are … We fight. We’re fighters.”
Vintage (10-2) knows it will travel to Danville for its semifinal next Saturday night, but has to wait until Monday night to find out whether it will play No. 4 San Ramon Valley or No. 5 Monte Vista. The cross-town rivals’ matchup was postponed from Friday due to poor air quality because of smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County.
“All of our energy is really high right now,” said Schaumkel. “I hope we just keep this train rolling into the next round.”