SACRAMENTO — Big plays on special teams and defense played a critical role in the fourth quarter for the Ponderosa High football team in Friday’s game against host Sheldon as the Bruins edged the Huskies 49-46 in the Delta River League finale.
The win was much-needed for the Bruins who earned an at-large Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff berth to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2007 — head coach Jason Tenner’s first year with the program. Ponderosa, seeded 14th, plays at No. 3 seed Elk Grove (4-1, 9-1) this Friday.
Ponderosa led for good with 8:30 left in the game after running back Austin Tibbs hauled in a 24-yard pass from quarterback Jake Bist (10-of-17, 198 yards) to make it 42-39. The Bruins cemented the win on a big special teams play — an onside kick that hit a Sheldon player and ended up in the hands of Andrew Olson.
Four plays later, the Bruins increased their lead to 10 when running back Christian Canepa (22 carries, 186 yards) scored on a 5-yard run with 6:56 left and Curtis Goldsmith booted the extra-point.
“We’ve been doing pooch kicks and onside kicks, and we’ve been looking for these big plays,” Olson said. “They picked my side so I knew I had to make the play.”
The Ponderosa defense stymied Sheldon on its next possession to thwart Husky quarterback Nolan Merker, leading to one of four turnovers the Bruins created.
“First off, my hats off to Sheldon. They gave us everything we wanted tonight and more,” Tenner said. “To our kids, we answered the call. We battled.”
Sheldon scored its last touchdown with 24 seconds when Merker hit Taron Johnson on a 14-yard pass. Sheldon also opted for an onside kick, but Bruin running back Jeff Martin recovered the ball to allow the Bruins to run out the clock.
Another big play by the Bruins came in the third quarter when inside linebacker Jeff Camilli blocked the Huskies’ extra-point attempt to preserve Ponderosa’s 28-27 lead.
“I just had to get through (the line to block the kick),” Camilli said. “I couldn’t have gotten through without the defensive line.”
Ponderosa extended its lead to 35-27 on a 27-yard run by Martin before Sheldon scored twice more on Merker to Johnson passes of 28 yards and 30 yards as the Huskies grabbed the 39-35 lead.
Sheldon led 7-0 after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Ponderosa responded with three touchdowns: Tibbs’ 15-yard run; Camilli’s 25-yard pass from Bist; and Canepa’s 40-yard pass from Bist.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.