Tears were shed following the Central Valley High School varsity football team's hard-to-digest 28-25 Western Athletic Conference loss at Patterson last week.
Damien Paulo threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Avion Warmsley with 49 seconds to play, and the Tigers (5-0, 1-0) rallied for a dramatic win against the Hawks (3-3, 0-2) for the second consecutive season.
Central Valley had a 36-yard field goal blocked as time expired in losing 21-20 to Patterson in 2012.
The Hawks lost this year's meeting thanks in large part to four turnovers. Central Valley also failed on a pair of 2-point conversion tries and had a point-after kick blocked.
"It's difficult to watch," Central Valley head coach Jason McCloskey said. "We had the game in hand. We made some mistakes we shouldn't have made. You want to see them be successful. We're all invested in these kids emotionally. We have to learn how to win the big game. We have to be a more disciplined team. That's why we're not getting over the hump."
Central Valley star running back Ja'Quan Gardner carried the ball 27 times for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
Gardner was slowed by a knee injury the previous week.
"He was a workhorse for us tonight," McCloskey said. "They couldn't stop him."
Patterson's defense picked off Hawk quarterback Kendel Johnson four times. He completed 6 of 16 passes for 79 yards and one touchdown. Johnson had 849 yards of total offense with 12 TDs and no picks during Central Valley's first four games.
Hawk defensive back Raul Godinez had 12 tackles, two pass deflections and one interception against the Tigers.
Central Valley collected six sacks and recovered two fumbles as a team.
In position to spoil Patterson's homecoming and secure a signature win, Central Valley couldn't seal the victory.
The Tigers got the ball back with 1:12 to play at Central Valley's 47-yard line.
Paulo delivered a 10-yard TD strike to Warmsley on a slant play 22 seconds later.
"Kendel had him covered," McCloskey said. "It was a perfect throw."
Central Valley's potential, game-winning possession started at its own 35-yard line. Johnson's final pass attempt-a heave into Patterson territory-was intercepted by a Tiger defender.
"This loss hurts a lot more than last year's," McCloskey said. "We made some mental errors that cost us. We died by our own hands again. It's really frustrating. We got to get a better football IQ."
Waged in a defensive battle in the opening half, Central Valley and Patterson both mustered just six points.
Gardner scored on a 9-yard run.
Alex Gebbing converted two field goals (24 and 29 yards).
The Hawks led 18-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Johnson tossed a 24-yard TD pass to Milton Uti.
Paulo and Brandon Williams accounted for Patterson's TD-an 18-yard connection.
Gardner had a 6-yard rushing touchdown.
Patterson outscored Central Valley 15-7 in the final period.
Paulo's 33-yard TD pass to Williams, and Jordan Levu's 2-point conversion catch put the Tigers ahead 21-18 at the 5:50 mark.
Central Valley reclaimed the lead at 25-21 when Gardner raced 19 yards for a touchdown and Alvaro Rodriguez booted the PAT with 3:25 left in regulation.
Paulo and Warmsley dashed Central Valley's upset bid and sent their homecoming crowd into a frenzy in the final minute.
"Our defense kept us in the game," McCloskey said. "We got to start executing at a higher rate. We haven't been in that many big games. I hope our kids learn from this."
Patterson has a rich tradition.
The Tigers, 2010 WAC champs, have posted winning records and participated in the playoffs the last eight years.
Central Valley, which started competing at the varsity level in 2006, has never compiled a winning record, qualified for the postseason or beaten Patterson.
"Everyone likes to win," McCloskey said. "You have to hate losing to get to the next level. It takes time. We feel like we can play with anybody. We just have to quit making mistakes that cost us games. Then we'll see how good of a team we have."
Central Valley does not play this week.
Vying for their first-ever playoff berth, the Hawks have little room for error.
Central Valley will face host Livingston on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.
"Our backs are against the wall," McCloskey said. "We need to win three of our final four games."