In a game with big-time plays such as kick returns, interception returns and lofted passes up the sideline all going for touchdowns — not to mention a combined 111 points scored — Friday night’s matchup between Cienega and Ironwood Ridge came down to an extra point.
In the end, Cienega (9-0, 3-0) won the game 56-55 on an extra point in overtime after the Nighthawks had missed theirs earlier in the extra period.
Ironwood Ridge (6-3, 1-2) scored a late touchdown with 25 seconds in regulation to tie up the game at 49 and force overtime.
The Nighthawks opened the overtime period with possession and senior running back Nick Brahler scored the go-ahead touchdown to give his team a 55-49 lead.
All Ironwood Ridge had to do was convert the extra point and Cienega would have to match the score to continue the game.
But that didn’t happen.
The Bobcats got a hand on the attempt and the ball sailed way short.
“We were so close to blocking it all night and we just thought maybe we could get one tonight,” Cienega coach Patrick Nugent said. “We got very fortunate that we got one.”
The Bobcats had their explosive offense, led by senior quarterback Jamarye Joiner and junior wide receiver Terrell Hayward, ready to go in overtime.
And on the first play, Joiner wiggled his way through the Nighthawk defense for the 10-yard touchdown to tie up the game at 55.
Cienega junior kicker Ezra Figueroa walked up to the spot ready to go, only to see a false start penalty move the line of scrimmage five yards in the wrong direction.
After officials re-spotted the ball, Figueroa lined back up and calmly made the game-winning kick.
Teammates mobbed Figueroa after the play and the junior said the feeling of hitting the winning extra point was unparalleled.
“I don’t even know, it’s hard to describe so much happiness,” Figueroa said. “It was just amazing.”
To get to overtime Cienega had to withstand a furious comeback attempt in the second half from the Nighthawks.
After Cienega held a 38-14 lead at halftime, Ironwood Ridge scored 35 points in the second half.
Cienega has one more regular-season game to win to stay perfect, something players and coaches alike say they desperately want.
“Just like last year’s team … as we tell the kids, a lot of people love to be perfect,” Nugent said. “We had an opportunity to be perfect in front of this home crowd and it’s a great opportunity for us to go into the state tournament as one of the top seeds. That’s all we can ask for.”