A 48-minute high school football game was reduced to a bizarre 17 seconds Thursday night at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
That's how long it took for the Central Section's third-ranked Clovis North to sandwich two Austin Autry-to-Tymon Locklin touchdown passes around a Merced fumble in the final minute of the first half to seize a lead it wouldn't lose in a 29-10 nonleague win.
"I wasn't worried, we just had to play up to our speed," said Broncos junior Bolu Olorunfunmi, who secured his team's win by punishing the Bears for 178 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 carries. And that featured a 12-yard score in the fourth quarter when he carried six — count 'em, six — Merced defenders the final 5 yards.
But, except for the stunning end of the first half, it was the Bears who were bullish only two weeks after they fell behind 33-0 at halftime at home in a 45-0 loss to No. 1 Edison — a score that the section seeding committee may compare to Thursday's when lining up the Division I field in six weeks.
Merced (3-2) was leading 10-0 when the game turned in a flash.
"I'm thinking, 'We've got to score and spark up,'" Locklin said.
To that point, there had been no generation of electricity whatsoever for a program coming off section D-I and D-II championships.
Clovis North, in its first five possessions, had gone lost fumble, punt, punt, lost fumble and punt as the Bears of the Sac-Joaquin Section and 17-year coach Rob Scheidt — a Dos Palos graduate — took command.
"We realize everybody gets up for us and we'll get their best shot," said Broncos coach Cory Hall, who spent the first half sitting with assistants in the press box while taking an MBA exam.
"I'm burning both ends," he would say later, laughing.
Broncos junior quarterback Autry, who had completed 61.5% of his passes in the past two weeks in his first varsity starts, suddenly found his touch late in the second quarter after a 3-for-8, 21-yard start.
His 21- and 11-yard strikes established rhythm before he and Locklin delivered a defining 1-2 combination.
Autry, on third-and-9 from the Merced 21, found Locklin on a slant pattern to the right side. Locklin, one of several college prospects on this team, caught the ball on the 5, escaped the grasp of two defenders and danced into the end zone, cutting Merced's lead to 10-7 with with 25 seconds remaining in the half.
The Bears, on the first play of their ensuing possession, had a poor center exchange with Clovis North lineman Harrison Crawford recovering on the Merced 33 at 0:15.
The Broncos struck immediately when Locklin beat junior cornerback Jabar Byrd in single coverage and dived for the 33-yard reception and score from Autry for a 14-10 lead with 8 seconds to go.
Locklin sprained his left ankle on the play and didn't return, but he says he expects to return when Clovis North opens the Tri-River Athletic Conference season at The Vet against Clovis West Oct. 11.
The Broncos are off next week.
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @beepreps on Twitter.