High School Football

Johansen rallies in fourth quarter to beat Davis, earns chance to play for WAC title

The Johansen High football team celebrated Senior Night on Friday, so it seemed appropriate that the Vikings rallied to beat Davis behind a senior connection.

Senior quarterback John Romero hit senior wide receiver Tiernan Collins on two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and Johansen rallied to beat the Spartans 21-14.

The victory gives Johansen a chance to play for a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship next week against Beyer.

It’s quite a turnaround for a program that just a few years ago could barely field a team.

“Just all heart, all heart,” Johansen coach Scott Sacuskie said of his team. “Tonight we had 25 seniors that were announced for senior night, 23 four-year seniors. Guys who came here as freshmen when it was not looking good as a program and decided to stick it out.

“I told them all week, ‘Just tell your story. Let the public know what you guys are about.’ ”

The Vikings (7-2, 5-1 WAC) showed the grit and determination that have fueled their success this season, rallying from down 14-6 behind two quick fourth-quarter TDs.

After Gregory Smith scored the second of his two touchdowns on a 65-yard return of a blocked field goal late in the third quarter, the Vikings looked down and out.

But Romero suddenly got the offense moving and the Vikings tied the game on the first play of the fourth quarter. Romero hit Collins for a 39-yard TD pass and Jesse Arriola scored on a 2-point PAT to tie the game at 14.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Vikings recovered an onside kick. A few plays later, Romero hit Collins on a 17-yard TD pass and — just like that — Johansen led 21-14.

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Davis drove deep into Johansen territory late in the game looking for a tying touchdown, but Spartans quarterback Elijah Diaz threw incomplete on fourth-and-6 at the 16-yard line.

The Vikings ran out the clock and celebrated the comeback win.

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“I think (the win) opens everybody else’s eyes around us, all the other teams that have been doubting,” said Romero, who completed five of his final six passes. “That’s a big, big, big, big, big, key win right there.”

One more win — next week against Beyer at Johansen — would clinch at least a share of the WAC title for the Vikings. Johansen, Beyer and Los Banos all are 5-1 in the WAC. Los Banos plays 3-3 Pacheco next Friday.

A victory over the Patriots also would likely send Johansen into the playoffs, which would’ve been almost unthinkable just a few years ago.

“My hat is off to each one of these kids, and my coaching staff is fantastic,” Sacuskie said. “Nothing but, just ... speechless, speechless.”

For Davis, it was an opportunity that slipped away.

After a scoreless first half, Smith got Davis on the board with a 60-yard TD run. After his long return of a blocked 45-yard field goal attempt, it appeared Davis would be the team playing for a title next week.

But Johansen found a way to swing the momentum in the fourth quarter. That, despite a big game from the Spartans’ do-everything quarterback Diaz (85 yards passing, 110 running).

“In a high school football game a lot of it is momentum,” Garcia said. “It was a great football game. They made more plays than we did and that’s really what it came down to.”

Garcia said his team would have no trouble putting the loss behind it. The Spartans play winless Ceres in their regular season finale next week.

Meanwhile, Sacuskie told his players that had some extra time to celebrate the victory. Instead of the usual 24 hours, he gave them 30.

“Six hours!” his players shouted. Then it’s on to Beyer.

This story was originally published October 25, 2019 11:19 PM.

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