Colusa loses heartbreaker to Durham

Conner Saso hands the ball off to Poli Pulido against Durham on Friday. Pulido led the RedHawks in rushing.

With just 14 seconds left in Friday’s Sacramento Valley League football tilt between the Colusa RedHawks and Durham Trojans on Friday, it appeared as if the two teams were destined for a 14-14 tie and overtime.

Then the unthinkable happened.

With the Trojans facing a second down from their own 37-yard line, Durham head coach Brev Creech reached into his bag of tricks, and it paid off in a big way. Durham quarterback Adin Dubose pitched the ball to running back Christopher Seegert, who pitched it back to wide-out Jace Buck on a reverse. Dubose threw a critical block on a RedHawk defender to allow Buck – who is also the Trojan’s backup quarterback – to set his feet, wind up, and launch an absolute bomb to Colby Del Carlo. Colusa’s Fernando Castillo didn’t bite on the reverse, and had tight coverage on Del Carlo, but Del Carlo made a great play on the ball and caught it for an improbable 53-yard gain.

He quickly signaled for a timeout, and Durham sent out their field-goal team. Then Del Carlo booted in the game-winning 27-yard field goal as time expired.

“We did everything right coverage wise,” said Colusa head coach Matt Jessee. “They didn’t fool us as far as having someone wide open running down the middle of the field. We had good coverage, but hats off to the kid who went up and made a great catch and called a quick time-out to get their field-goal unit on the field.”

Friday’s game was one that the RedHawks had a chance to take control of early. A three-yard Poli Pulido touchdown opened the scoring in the first quarter, capping a 13-play, 60-yard scoring drive on the RedHwaks first offensive possession. After a failed extra-point attempt, Colusa was up 6-0.

Two plays into Durham’s ensuing possession, defensive tackle Gabe Salazar forced and recovered a fumble, setting Colusa’s offense up with a first down deep in Trojans territory. Colusa was unable to capitalize on the short field, however, and went nowhere in three plays. On fourth-and-9 from Durham’s 26-yard line, Conner Saso was sacked for a seven-yard loss, and Colusa turned the ball over on downs.

Durham took over at their own 33, and engineered a 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive of their own, which was capped with a seven-yard rushing touchdown from Seth Moody. Del Carlo converted the extra-point to give his team a 7-6 lead.

After trading punts with the Trojans, Colusa started with the ball at their own 19-yard line. The RedHawks went nowhere on their first two plays of the drive, but on third-and-10, Saso narrowly avoided a sack and flipped a pass to Christian Lyss in the right flat, who rumbled for a gain of 16 yards on the play. The RedHawks got another 15 yards when Durham was flagged for a late hit on Saso, setting them up with a first down at midfield. Lyss lined up at quarterback on the next two plays and ran the ball on two straight quarterback keepers for gains of 11 yards and 1 yard. Saso stepped back in as quarterback on second down at Durham’s 38-yard line and handed the ball off to Pulido on a counter, who exploded through the line, spun away from a tackle near Durham’s 30-yard line, and out-sprinted the Trojans to the end-zone for his second touchdown of the night. Back in at quarterback, Lyss ran in the two-point attempt and gave his team a 14-7 lead with 2:32 left in the half.

That was more than enough time for Dubose to answer back, and almost enough time for the Trojans to jump ahead. After the kickoff, Durham started with the ball at their own 34-yard line, and Dubose marched them down the field before connecting with Kyle Sinclear on a six-yard touchdown pass with 1:11 left in the second quarter. A successful point after tied the game at 14-14.

Dubose and the Trojans offense got the ball back at their own 45-yard line after their defense forced Colusa to punt with just 44 seconds left until the half. Dubose once again marched the Trojans deep into Colusa territory, all the way to the RedHawks’ 20-yard line, but Saso picked him off in the back of the end-zone to keep the score tied heading into the half.

While both offenses managed to move the ball in the second half, neither was able to put points on the board until Durham’s last-second field goal attempt. A big reason the Trojans were unable to put points on the board was Saso: he snagged another interception on the first possession of the third quarter, derailing what was another promising drive for the Trojans. His most crucial play came in the fourth quarter, when Colusa most needed a defensive stop. The Trojans were faced with fourth-and-goal from Colusa’s 3-yard line when Sinclear mishandled a quick pitch from Dubose and popped the ball in the air. Saso shot into the backfield and snagged the ball before it hit the ground for a fumble recovery, and his third takeaway of the night.

While it was turnovers that kept Durham off the board, Colusa simply wasn’t able to finish drives with points. Colusa’s most impressive drive began with just under 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The RedHawks offense started with the ball at their own 7-yard line and churned their way down the field on a 16-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions and ran more than eight minutes off the clock before they turned the ball over on downs at Durham’s 17-yard line.

“It was a tough loss, but we had our chances. Our kids played really hard, and we were decimated by injuries,” Jessee said. “We had some injuries at key positions, especially in that second half, but the next man stepped up and I think they did a great job of fighting and gutting it out for four quarters… It was a tough loss, but we’ll bounce back.”

The sledding won’t get any easier this week for Colusa (5-2, 1-1 Sacramento Valley League), who will be without a number of key players when they travel to Winters on Friday to face the undefeated Warriors (6-0, 2-0 SVL). It is a must-win game if the RedHawks want a real shot at a share of the Sacramento Valley League crown. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM.

Brian Pearson is the former Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects included reporting local government and the sports page.