Chris Brown appeared, then disappeared, then reappeared. And just like that, in an 87-yard flash, he lifted fourth-ranked Memorial High to a thrilling 28-21 nonleague win over No. 11 Clovis North on Thursday at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Brown had been held to 16 yards on nine second-half carries after a 90-yard, two-touchdown first half when he bolted up the middle untouched for the 87-yard score on a third-and-2 play with 3 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the game to break a 21-21 tie.
"Just an inside zone play," Panthers offensive coordinator Mike McClurg said. "Everyone in the NFL runs it. You just man block."
Never miss a local story.
He made it sound simple, and indeed it appeared that way in the first half when Memorial gashed the Broncos behind Brown and arguably the Central Section's finest offensive line.
Featuring left tackle David Keller, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound senior who has committed to Fresno State, the Panthers scored on three of four first-half drives while mounting a 21-7 lead. And the only time they didn't score, they dropped a fourth-down pass in the end zone following a game-opening 83-yard march.
Brown, carrying 18 times, scored first-half touchdowns of 16 and 4 yards – his 16th and 17th scores of the season.
However, Clovis North's defense, coordinated by former Clovis longtime assistant and head coach Larry Kellom, made an immediate statement in the second half when end Joey Garretson drilled Brown for a 1-yard loss on Memorial's first play.
The Panthers (4-0), after never punting in a 238-yard first half, went three-and-out on their first three possessions of the third quarter and, suddenly, there was a dramatic reversal in a game matching the section's Nos. 1- and 3-ranked Division II teams in Memorial and Clovis North.
Then, it was the Broncos' offensive line that took over with a major assist from fullback Ty Mulhern.
And replacing Brown on the game's running back marquee for most of the second half was Broncos sophomore Trenton Barnes.
A bulldozer – somehow, at 5-9, 175 – the Buchanan transfer rushed for 100 of his 132 yards in the final two quarters, including a 1-yard score that trimmed the gap to 21-14 midway through the third.
Following a Memorial missed field goal, Clovis North junior quarterback David Wells – flying solo at the position with regular starter Christian Rossi out with a knee injury – drove his team 80 yards in nine plays for a game-tying touchdown with 8:06 to go.
Barnes' runs of 11 and 7 yards kick-started the march, a 19-yard pass from Wells to Josh Lovingood extended it and an 8-yard pass from Wells to leaping tight end Kyle Riddering in the front right corner of the end zone made it 21-20 before Thomas Hernandez's conversion kick tied it with 4:33 showing.
Xavier Stephens ran for five touchdowns and Tulare, ranked No. 7 in the Central Section, blasted Division V No. 3 Granite Hills 50-0 in an East Yosemite League game.
Khari McGee passed for four TDs, three to Terrell Green, and ran for two as No. 6 Edison beat Buchanan 48-14.