Head coach Randy Flanagan's heart was racing in the waning seconds of the fourth-seeded Ceres Seahawks junior-varsity football team's Cen-Cal AFC first-round playoff game against the top-seeded Buhach Colony Thunder.
Down by a touchdown, quarterback Orlando Leon zipped an 8-yard pass to Andrew Alcala in the right-corner of the end zone. The ball was knocked out of Alcala's hands as time expired.
The Seahawks suffered a heart-breaking 26-20 loss while challenging Buhach Colony for four quarters on Nov. 2 at Oakdale High School. It marked the third time Ceres lost by six points this season.
"It was like a Super Bowl game," Flanagan said. "You should have heard the fans. I thought we had them. We gave them a scare. Those are the games I like to be a part of, win or lose."
Ceres' Dawaiian McNeely had a 70-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Leon connected with Darin Andrews on a 30-yard scoring play.
Alcala scored on a 3-yard run.
The Seahawks and Thunder battled to a 12-12 tie in the opening half.
McNeely's TD gave the Seahawks a 20-18 in the third quarter.
"That was a great game," Flanagan said. "It would have been a nice win. They were blowing out everybody. We had them on the ropes. Our kids played well."
Buhach Colony shut out Ceres 22-0 during the regular season.
"I'm not disappointed," Flanagan said. "I'm proud of the kids. That's the performance I've been waiting for. We played tough. We gave them a run for their money. We executed our game plan."
The Seahawks nearly pulled off a major upset.
Ceres dropped to 5-6 on the year.
Buhach Colony (12-1) lost to the Modesto Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks will close out the 2013 season against the Ceres Cowboys this Saturday at Central Valley High School. The game will get underway at 1 p.m.
Varsity Bulldogs shine
The Ceres Jr. Bulldogs varsity youth football team had a memorable first season while competing in the Bay Valley Gridiron League.
"They worked very hard this season and I am excited for next season," head coach Joe Estrada said. "Those that will be leaving to Ceres High and Central Valley will make me a very proud coach either way. The high schools will be getting a lot of talented young men."
The Jr. Bulldogs compiled a 6-4 overall record and fell one win shy of competing for the BVGL Super Bowl title.
Fourth-seeded Ceres lost 40-6 to the undefeated Palm City Reapers in the second round of the playoffs on Nov. 16 at Patterson Community Stadium. "There was a lot of nervousness in the beginning going against a first-seeded team at their home field," Estrada said.
The Reapers limited the Jr. Bulldogs to 170 yards of total offense.
Davion Gates rushed for a team-high 90 yards and accounted for Ceres' lone touchdown.
Ilan Espinoza, Eduardo Tovar and Pablo Arreola had 30, 25 and 20 yards rushing, respectively.
Josh Vasquez and Abraham Lugo led the way on defense with four tackles and two sacks apiece.
The Jr. Bulldogs' first offensive play of the game was a 10-yard run up the middle by Tovar.
"After that, there was so much pressure," Estrada said. "We couldn't stop their defense."
Gates ripped off a 65-yard touchdown run in the second half to prevent the shutout.
JV Bulldogs upset
The loss was hard to stomach.
The top-seeded Ceres Jr. Bulldogs junior-varsity football team's season ended in the semifinals of the Bay Valley Gridiron League playoffs.
The third-seeded Central Valley Raiders upset the Jr. Bulldogs 47-18 on Nov. 16 at Patterson Community Stadium and advanced to the Super Bowl.
"No one cried after the game," Ceres head coach Jesus Montes said. "All I could see was smiles on their faces. The kids all had fun. For a first-year organization, we did well."
Patrick Garcia and James Benites both scored rushing touchdowns for Ceres. Joel Montes-Lopez tossed a TD pass to Mateo Scalise.
Ceres compiled an 8-2 record this year. The Jr. Bulldogs outscored their regular-season opponents, 144-66.
"I can't wait for next year," coach Montes said. "We'll have a better season."