By Adam Stites/Garden Grove Journal
A heartbreaking, last-second loss concluded the regular season for the Pacifica Mariners football team with a 10-9 loss to the Cypress Centurions last Thursday at Western High.
In a game that meant the difference between the 2nd and 4th seed in the CIF Southwest Divison Playoffs, a field goal from Cypress’s Casey Eyman as time expired gave the Centurions the one point victory.
It was Pacifica’s inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities that cost them dearly. The Mariners managed to drive inside the opposing 20-yard line four times, but weren’t able to find the end zone on any of the four drives, settling for field goal attempts on all four.
Nursing a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Pacifica managed to drive the length of the field to the Cypress 2-yard line, but were unable to find the end zone and were forced to settle with their fourth field goal attempt following a Cypress sack.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, Alex Gladden missed his first attempt of the night, pushing the 25 yard field goal wide left.
With 6:19 left in the game, Cypress was given a final opportunity to drive the field and take the lead away from the Mariners.
Pacifica managed to stop Cypress to a fourth and 14 on their own 38, but a costly error gave the Centurions five free yards after Pacifica had 12 men on the field for the punt. With a fourth and 9 situation, Cypress changed strategies and completed a first down pass to extend the drive.
The Centurions were able to drive the rest of the field and call a timeout with three seconds left following a failed attempt to score a touchdown. Eyman kicked the 18-yard field as time expired to give Cypress the win.
Pacifica’s frustrated head coach, Marcello Giuliano, spoke of a team that will need to “be tougher” in the playoffs if they wish to win games and advance in the tournament. Senior receiver Joel Willis pinpointed execution as the factor most lacking in the loss adding, “We had so many mistakes and we couldn’t capitalize on their mistakes.”
The lone touchdown of the game came from Cypress junior quarterback Chris Austin in the 2nd quarter when Austin found a seam up the middle of the Mariner defense and scampered for a 28 yard score.
Austin led the Cypress offense with 59 yards passing and 65 yards rushing, complimented by 83 yards rushing from junior running back Vincent Rivera.
Pacifica was, as always, led by senior running back Cody Johnson who accumulated 118 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving. The performance gave Johnson a final total of 1,102 yards on the ten game regular season with 11 touchdowns.
The Mariners senior quarterback Mario Nava finished the game with 102 yards passing. His 1,524 yards and 64.9 percent completion ratio were the best marks in the Empire League for the season.
The loss gives the Mariners (7-3, 3-3) the 4th seed in the Empire league and an automatic bid into the CIF Southwest Conference playoffs.
Pacifica will open postseason play with a trip to Villa Park on Friday to play the Century League champion Villa Park Spartans (7-3, 5-1).
Empire league’s second-seeded Cypress will play Sea View League’s third place team, San Juan Hills high school (7-3, 2-2) at home on the same date.