By Jeremy Balan
For a team that has relied heavily on big plays for much of the season, the Mission High School football team exhibited a noticeable patience to punch its ticket to the Academic Athletic Association championship game.
The Bears racked up 318 yards rushing from five different ball carriers and pieced together several sustained scoring drives in a 47-28 win over Galileo in the AAA semifinals on Thursday at Kezar Stadium.
“We know big plays are going to happen now and then, but we want to be consistent and run the ball consistently,” said Mission quarterback Antoine Porter, who led the rushing effort with 106 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. “We don’t want to rely on one play because sometimes that doesn’t happen.”
When the game needed to be put away, however, the big plays came.
With Galileo (4-6-1) trailing 35-20 early in the fourth quarter, the Lions’ defense appeared to be gaining traction when it stopped Mission running back Armani McFarland at the line of scrimmage on second and long. But McFarland, in the grasp of two Galileo defenders, flipped the ball backward to junior running back Dreon McElroy, who then burst down the left sideline for a 55-yard score.
“He was just sitting there with his hands out and he was open,” said McFarland, who ran for 89 yards on 12 carries and also had a 19-yard touchdown reception. “We made a play.”
On the next Mission drive, Galileo again appeared to get a stop, forcing the Bears (7-3) into a three-and-out at midfield, but fell victim to the athleticism and improvising ability of Porter.
Lined up in punt formation, Porter, who also punts for the Bears, saw the fourth-down snap nearly sail over his head. He made a one-handed stab to bring in the ball, then rolled to his left and hurled a pass to wide receiver Alex Tico for a 51-yard score that extended the Mission lead to 47-20 with 7:31 remaining.
The play call was to punt, but the Bears have a contingency plan for bad snaps, giving Porter the freedom to make a play.
“He’s made a lot of plays for us, so we have that relationship, where I give him some freedom on the field and he deserves it, because he’s such a spectacular player,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano.
While Mission built its lead with sustained drives, the Lions stayed in the game with three big plays.
The first two, 72- and 24-yard touchdown runs by standout junior running back Ronzel Fox, tied the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter after Mission jumped out to a two-score lead. Fox finished with a game-high 165 yards on 17 carries.
The third was a 54-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Kyle Nelson to Isaac Armstrong that cut a 28-14 Mission halftime lead to 28-20 with 10:02 remaining in the third quarter.
“It’s not like the game was so out of hand or we couldn’t compete,” said Galileo head coach Mark Huynh. “I mean, come on, you have a punt that turns into a pass all the way down there and that lateral play — those are just improvised.”
Even with the big plays, the Lions largely struggled on offense and had 12 plays that went for negative yardage. That, combined with their inability to stop the Mission rushing game, proved to be too much to overcome.
The silver lining for Galileo is that their core of skill players are all juniors playing in their first postseason.
“I’m glad we got a taste of the playoffs for next year,” Huynh said. “They should have a goal in mind and hopefully they’ll be dialed in for the offseason.”
M: 7:55 – Antoine Porter 9-yard run (Peter Lee kick)
M: 3:48 – Matthew Yee 10-yard run (Lee kick)
G: 2:50 – Ronzel Fox 72-yard run (Yanek Hakobyan kick)
G: 9:58 – Fox 24-yard run (Hakobyan kick)
M: 8:44 – Porter 12-yard run (Lee kick)
M: 3:21 – Armani McFarland 19-yard pass from Porter (Lee kick)
G: 10:02 – Isaac Armstrong 54-yard pass from Kyle Nelson (kick failed)
M: 5:29 – Porter 3-yard run (Lee kick)
M: 11:44 – Dreon McElroy 56-yard run (kick blocked)
M: 7:31 – Alex Tico 51-yard pass from Porter (kick blocked)
G: 2:00 – Dontell Jackson 2-yard run (Rafael Vergara run on conversion)