Drama at Del Oro? CIF NorCal Division 2-AA title game comes down to final minute

All Del Oro High School football players wanted to do was defer the credit following the Golden Eagles’ 14-13 comeback win over Saint Francis of Mountain View in the CIF NorCal Division 2-AA championship game Friday night in Loomis.

Matthew Smart scored both of Del Oro’s touchdowns, the second of which came with 59 seconds left, a week after scoring the winning TD in a Sac-Joaquin Section final, but he deferred the credit to teammates like Carson Jarratt and Sheldon Conde. Jarratt, who passed for more than 250 yards, credited his entire team, especially Smart, Joshua Moore and Conde, who made big plays on the last drive of the game.

“We are a big family,” Jarratt said. “This community, this football team, this school, I can’t believe the things we do. The sky is the limit for us. How this community rallies around us is honestly truly amazing.”

The Golden Eagles, who won a state bowl in 2015 and advanced to a state bowl in 2016, earned another bid Dec. 14 against Grace Brethren of Simi Valley. They meet at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

“I hope it means that Del Oro is still Del Oro,” second-year coach Jeff Walters said. “It is a very special thing to give back to this community that eats, sleeps and breathes football.”

For a second straight week, Del Oro came from behind and won in dramatic fashion. Last week, Smart scooped up a fumble and returned it 42 yards to win the section title. This week, he had 178 receiving yards.

“It felt amazing,” Smart said. “All the hard work during the season paid off.”

Trailing 13-0 midway through the third quarter and facing a third and 9, Jarratt hit Smart on a slant up the middle and Smart outran the defense for a 79-yard touchdown to bring the crowd to its feet.

“We were looking for a spark and he lit it up,” Walters said. “To use his word, it was ‘electric.’”

Down 13-7 with under three minutes to play, Jarratt and the Golden Eagles faced a third down from inside their 30-yard line. Jarratt hit Moore, who rumbled for a first down. On the next play, Jarratt took off out of the pocket and ran for another first down. Then, facing a third and 12, Jarratt hit Conde on a screen pass for 19 yards and a first down with just over one minute to play.

With Del Oro at the Saint Francis 13, Jarratt stepped back into the pocket and hit Smart in the back corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score with 59 seconds left.

“That’s a kid that all season long was doing the right thing and just couldn’t get into the end zone,” Walters said. “Now, you’re talking about three of the biggest touchdowns in Del Oro history.”

Smart also played cornerback and helped the Golden Eagles locked down the Lancers for most of the game.

The scoring didn’t start until Saint Francis senior defensive tackle Chase Lazarus stripped Jarratt, giving the Lancers the ball at the Del Oro 28 early in the second quarter. The Golden Eagles held the Lancers to a field goal.

Just before halftime, the Lancers surged down the field on a 42-yard run by Ryan Mulholland, who was dragged down at the 28. Saint Francis moved the ball inside the 10-yard line but couldn’t get into the end zone and took a 6-0 halftime lead.

Saint Francis took a 13-0 lead in the third quarter after moving the length of the field, scoring on Evan Williams’ 11-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Daly.

On the ensuing possession, Del Oro gained one yard on its first two plays to set up a third down. Jarratt then hit Smart for Del Oro’s first touchdown.

“It’s like our fight song says, ‘Golden Eagles never give in,’ and that’s kind of our mantra,” Walters said. “We are going to fight until the last opportunity, and we are going to make plays and that’s what we did. I’m so darn proud of them.”