Football: Tulare Western wins on walk-off touchdown

Jermaine Johnson II

Tulare Western defeats Wasco 12-8 after scoring touchdown as time expires

TULARE – Tulare Western trailed for the entire 48 minutes against Wasco, yet still managed to pull out a win. Last Thursday in front of their home crowd, the Mustangs scored a touchdown as time expired to pull off the comeback victory and stay undefeated on the season.

The Mustang defense played a strong game giving up only one touchdown in the first quarter, and they locked down late to give their offense another chance to score. As Wasco worked to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, they were forced to punt with less than two minutes remaining. The punt was returned to Wasco’s 40-yard line which set up Tulare Western’s offense, led by sophomore quarterback Carmine Ficher, to orchestrate the game-winning drive. Despite two earlier interceptions, Ficher showed poise on the final drive as the team relied heavily on his arm to move the chains with no timeouts. With thirty seconds left, they converted a fourth and short just outside of the red zone to keep the drive alive. They almost got in the end zone sooner as Ficher rolled out to his right and chucked the ball into the back of the end zone, but it was dropped by senior receiver Korbyn Martinho. His teammates immediately rushed over to encourage him and the offense would redeem him a few plays later.

Senior receiver Rolando Holmes caught a 20-yard pass to put his team on the 5-yard line, and he showed off his strength as he had to fight his way to the sideline to stop the clock despite the defense holding him back. With only seven seconds remaining, if he wouldn’t have forced his way out of bounds the game likely would have ended. Following a defensive pass interference penalty that put the Mustangs at the one-yard line, they had one final play to get into the end zone. Wasco called a timeout which gave Tulare Western time to discuss a play they had been sitting on the entire season.

With an empty backfield, Ficher sent the right slot receiver in motion and faked the handoff to him after the snap. Senior tight end Chase Gomez snuck behind the defense and Ficher found him wide open in the end zone for the walk-off touchdown.

Mainly a blocking tight end, Gomez was shocked and nervous at the play call. It was quite the moment for the first catch of his career and he was swarmed by a sea of red uniforms in the end zone after the bench nearly cleared.

Wasco was in control for most of the game. They were dominating in the trenches on offense as they seemed to run the ball with ease. However both teams struggled to score touchdowns the entire game. Whenever they would get close, the opposing defense came up with big stops. The Mustangs defense blocked a punt that set up their offense in the red zone, yet the Tigers stuffed them on fourth down at the 1-yard line. After some second half adjustments, they finally got on the board in the third quarter as junior Brandon Martin ran it in from four yards out. They failed on the two-point conversion and were down 8-6.

Following the Mustang scoring drive, the Tigers had two big passes that helped them make it to the red zone. However they were stuffed on fourth down from the 6-yard line.

The Mustangs are 3-0 and each game has come down to the fourth quarter. They defeated Mission Oak 36-24 in their first game. It was a one-score game early in the final period before senior Mikey Ficher broke off a 75-yard run to give his team some breathing room. Last week they went on the road to defeat Dinuba 26-20. After a late score from the Emperors, the Mustangs were forced to recover an onside kick to seal the game.

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