Heritage senior receiver Ezra Magalei outjumped two Liberty defenders in the front right corner of the end zone to haul in a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sohail Mohsini with 1:43 remaining in the game, completing Heritage’s 15-12 come-from-behind victory in the eighth annual Brentwood Bowl last Friday night.
The Patriots (4-2, 1-0 in the Bay Valley Athletic League) had trailed 6-0 at the half before taking their first lead of the game late in the third quarter, but found themselves down 12-7 with 4:57 left in the game when they started the final game-winning drive.
Tre Edwards returned the kickoff out to the Patriots’ 35-yard line, where they started their final march. A play-action pass from Mohsini to Magalei ignited the final drive, moving the ball near midfield. Heritage then crossed into Liberty territory with a 21-yard strike from Mohsini to Edwards. Two carries up the middle from Leeandre White advanced the ball to the Lions’ 21-yard line, where a first down incompletion set up the final offensive play of the evening for the Patriots. Heritage sent three receivers to the left in a trips spread formation, isolating Magalei on the right side of the offense. Mohsini liked the match-up, and put the ball up in a place that gave Magalei a chance to make the game-winning play.
“I told (Ezra) that I was going to put it up for him if we got man coverage,” said Mohsini, referring to the game-winning pass. “We knew it was time to go win the game, and (the offense) wanted the game on our shoulders.”
The game-winning drive by the Patriots was set up by a crucial drive just prior by the Liberty offense. Quarterback Joseph Tolentino, who earlier had thrown his first interception of the season, found Alex Hull on consecutive passes for 22 and 20 yards to move the ball into the Heritage red zone, trailing 7-6 midway through the fourth quarter. Three plays from the Patriots’ 20-yard line netted six yards for the Lions (5-1, 0-1), setting up a fourth-and-four with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Tolentino dropped back to pass, but was not able to find an open receiver, kept the ball himself and scrambled 14 yards into the end zone. Liberty appeared to convert the two-point try when Willie Williams raced around the right side into the end zone, but a block in the back penalty made the Lions retry the conversion from the 12-yard line, where they were unable to succeed. That kept the lead at five points, and enabled Heritage to take the lead with a touchdown.
“We told the kids they just needed to do their job, that nothing superhuman was required,” said head coach Don Sanders, speaking about the approach on the sidelines prior to the final drive. “Every kid was completely fired up on the sidelines, completely enthusiastic. It was a great family response.”
The first three quarters of play largely consisted of missed opportunities for both teams. Four different Heritage drives inside the Liberty 30-yard line came up empty after failing to convert on fourth down, while the Lions turned the ball over three times inside the Patriots’ red zone. One of the biggest plays for the Heritage defense came when they forced Tolentino’s first interception of the season, following a short punt that had given the ball to Liberty at the Patriots’ 28-yard line. Liberty did score on its opening drive of the game, when Jesse Gregerson punched the ball in from three yards out, but a missed extra point proved to be important later in the game.
Heritage finally broke through on the scoreboard with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter, as its run game pounded away at the heart of the Lions’ defense. After multiple runs between the tackles to start the second half, White took a pitch to the right side, and broke free to the outside, racing 71 yards down the sideline to the Liberty two-yard line. That set up a quarterback sneak by Mohsini to give the Patriots their first lead of the game.
“I was just enjoying the moment,” said White, in reference to his long run. “It felt great to be able to get outside, break a tackle, and just go.”
White led all ball carriers with 135 yards on 19 carries, while Liberty was led by Tai Tai Canady, who picked up 88 yards on 16 carries. Alex Hull and JP Puente had big games receiving for the Lions with 65 and 57 yards, respectively. Magalei, Edwards and Jack Olender each had two catches for Heritage. Shane Goodwin registered two sacks for the Liberty defense, which sacked Mohsini five times in the game.
Both teams still have multiple big games remaining in Bay Valley Athletic League play, and a long road heading towards the possibility of postseason play for both Brentwood schools.
“We take away the fact that we can be a very good team, and beat other good teams,” said three-year Heritage varsity starter Sam Hinn, speaking about the Patriots’ seventh win in eight tries over the course of the rivalry. “But it’s just one game now, and we need to get prepared for Pittsburg.”
The Patriots host Pittsburg Oct. 17, while Liberty travels to Los Medanos College to play Antioch.
Heritage won on all three levels against the Lions, as the junior varsity won 20-0, and the Patriots freshmen won 15-0.