Mission Oak football loses heartbreaker to Kingsburg

Hawks lose first game of season in Valley quarterfinal match against Kingsburg

KINGSBURG – It was an unfamiliar end to last Friday’s Division II quarterfinal Valley playoff match for the Mission Oak Hawks. The team hadn’t lost a game since their 1-4 showing during the spring, but their undefeated season came to an end with a heartbreaking 32-26 loss in Kingsburg against the Vikings.

According to Mission Oak head coach Michael Machado, playoff football games are usually lost by a team due to mistakes made, more than they’re won by a unit that is just the outright better team. His squad assuredly made their fair share of blunders on the night in the form of dropped balls, bad reads, blown coverages and bad snaps. Yet through it all, they still had a chance for a potential game-winning drive in the final two minutes.

After sophomore Kenny Jackson made a tough toe dragging catch along the left side of the end zone, the Hawks had cut the lead down to six points with just over four minutes remaining in the game. The teams consistently traded onside kicks throughout the night but the only successful recovery came following that touchdown as Mission Oak regained possession for a chance to take the lead.

They made it all the way down to the 13-yard line and were faced with a fourth and one, when Kingsburg junior Trace Jackson made the play of the night. The Hawks attempted to run for the first but Jackson shot a gap and blew up the play in the backfield, essentially securing a game-clinching tackle for loss for the turnover on downs.

The situation potentially could have looked a lot different, had it not been for the game’s defining moment which happened just a few drives earlier. The Hawks were in a similar situation, dealing with a fourth and goal from the two yard-line, when a bad snap to senior Michael Iriye caused him to get tackled in the backfield for the turnover on downs. All hope wasn’t lost as the Vikings offense was then pinned inside their own five-yard line. But they gave the Hawks a hard punch in the gut with a short slant that went 95-yards for a touchdown, which gave Kingsburg a 32-19 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The Hawks weren’t dead just yet, but they were certainly on life support according to Machado.

It was a tale of two halves for both teams. Kingsburg’s offense struggled to move the ball against a stout Mission Oak defense and they went into halftime trailing 13-6. The Hawks got the ball first and ate up the first four minutes of game clock in the second half with a scoring drive that put them up 19-6. However with the season on the line, the Vikings flipped a switch and from that point on, they outscored the Hawks 26-7 to advance to the Division II Valley semifinals.

It was an unfamiliar ending for a Mission Oak team that is more familiar with being on the other side of these kinds of close battles at the end of games. Nonetheless, it is the culmination of one of the best seasons in program history. They finished with the most wins in a season in nine years and the bar has once again been raised after five consecutive seasons of below .500 records. As the first season of the Machado era comes to an end, it’s likely not the last time that they’ll be making a run in the Valley playoffs.

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