STOCKTON - Down 34-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Summerville Bears didn't flinch or give up against the Brookside Christian Knightson Saturdayat Spanos Stadium.
The Bears showed resilience and resolve, and fought back from a 20-point deficit to grab its first lead of the game 35-34 after a successful two-point conversion with1:27remaining in the game.
But the Bears could not hold on and lost in the final seconds, 42-35.
"Our kids deserve a lot of credit for coming back," said Bears head coach Ben Watson. "And battling all the way to take the lead."
After struggling to move the football for nearly three quarters, the Bears turned to the I-formation and offense took off.
Running back Austin McCready scored on a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle on the first play in the fourth quarter, and after a Bryce Farrell extra point, the Bears cut the Knights' lead to 34-21.
But they weren't finished.
Watson and the Bears coaching staff then called for a gutsy onside kick that paid off when junior Cameron Hargrave recovered the football at midfield.
"We took a chance," Watson said. "It got the right bounce. Excellent execution. It worked out well for us."
"I loved it," said junior Ashtin Dalby, who made his first career start at left tackle. "I was so excited. It was a huge turning point in the game, and I felt it just energized the whole team for us to go out and kick butt."
Fueled by the touchdown and the onside kick recovery, the Bears ran it eight straight times at the Knights defensive armor and it cracked. Jake Fulkerson, a sophomore playing in his first varsity game, capped off the 50-yard drive when he slipped through for a 10-yard scamper to the end zone to make it 34-27. Fulkerson had 88 yards on 16 carries and caught two passes for 22 yards in his Bear debut.
"I thought he did well," Watson said. "He set up some things for us on offense. I thought he ran the ball well, so I felt good about a lot of the things that he did. He really stepped up and did a great job for us."
And then the Summerville defense arrived in the clutch on the next possession to record its third turnover of the game.
Farrell, lining up at free safety, intercepted a tipped pass on third down to give the Bears an opportunity to march downfield for the go-ahead score at the Bear 27.
On a methodical 14-play, 73-yard, time-consuming drive, the Bears chewed up 5 minutes and 31 seconds off the clock using a powerful rushing attack. Running 13 times and throwing only once behind a strong and surging offensive line, the Bears drove the length of the field to put an exclamation point on their comeback.
"We decided to try to take the ball away from their offense," said Bear offensive line coach Jeremy Hurtado. "We ran the ball well in the second half. Our offensive line did a great job led by our seniors and another junior in Ashtin Dalby. He had a great game for us today."
With the offensive line able to get a good push, Bear runner Nathaniel Ulvevadet plowed for a 1-yard touchdown with1:27remaining to close the gap to within one, 34-33.
But the Bears were not going to settle for an extra point field goal attempt. They elected to go for the win and the two-point conversion.
McCready, who emerged in the I-formation and jetted for 35 yards on eight carries, took the handoff and punctuated the drive with a tough run up the gut to give the Bears the lead.
"I always felt like we could bounce back no matter what the score is," McCready said. "I felt no matter what, our team has heart and we can come back."
The Knights had that mindset too. After returning the kickoff to their 42-yard line, Brookside Christian scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass two plays later to crush the Bears' late rally.
"Unfortunately, we were just a little short, but we played a great game," Hurtado said. "It's something we can build on and definitely learn from as we move into league."
In the first quarter, fullback Brendan Brick scored the Bears first touchdown on a 21-yard run. McCready's 5-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter gave the Knights an 18-14 lead at halftime.
Farrell threw for 116 yards.
"We can't come out flat and expect to win the game," Dalby said. "But we tried our hardest and that's all you can ask."