Central High could’ve lost.
Maybe the Grizzlies even should’ve lost.
But for every critical mistake on offense, the defense and special teams stepped up.
Until finally, the error-prone offense came up with their own big play.
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Trent Tompkins sailed a high and tight spiral 23 yards down the middle of the field and Jacob Torrez hauled it in at the back of the end zone with 20 seconds remaining as Central Section top-ranked Central stunned No. 2 Buchanan 28-27 on Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a big win,” Tompkins said. “I’m proud of our guys coming back.
“We’re down in the fourth quarter. Last drive. Not many teams can say they come back and score a last-second touchdown.”
While Tompkins and Torrez can bask in game-winning glory in a Tri-River Athletic Conference opener, it was the defense that gave the Grizzlies (5-1) one last chance.
I know if I throw it within his vicinity, he’s going to come down with it.
Central QB Trent Tompkins on his winning TD pass to WR Jacob Torrez
Coming out of a timeout, Buchanan (5-1) called a “fly sweep” run to the right with receiver Jordan Huddleston.
Three Grizzlies defenders brought down Huddleston – most notably linebacker Tre Walker – and caused the ball to pop out.
Reclaiming possession on Anthony Dixon’s recovery, Central started its final drive from the Buchanan 30 with less than 2 minutes remaining.
“Honestly, I didn’t think they were going to give it to us,” Central coach Kyle Biggs said of the fumble. “They did. You give a good football team an opportunity like that – on their side of the field – we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Central’s defense recovered a fumble in the final minutes, forced the Bears into a three-and-out possession when Buchanan had a chance to go up two scores, and the Grizzlies special teams helped caused a missed extra point that turned out to be the difference.
Central’s defense also forced Buchanan into a three-and-out when the Bears had the ball around the Grizzlies 30 with a chance to go ahead by two possessions earlier in the fourth.
And it was Central’s special teams that helped force Buchanan into a missed extra point with 9.32 remaining – a failed conversion that turned out to be the difference.
Tompkins completed 26 of 45 passes for 336 passing yards and three touchdowns.
In addition to the TD pass to Torrez, Tompkins tossed a 9-yard strike to Avery Boyd for the game’s first score and a 16-yarder to Tyrell Grayson that put Central ahead 21-14 just before halftime.
But with Tompkins also throwing three interceptions, including two in the red zone, Buchanan moved ahead in the second half.
16-210Rushing attempts and yardage by Buchanan running back Trevor Ervin
Star sophomore Kendall Milton (21 carries, 129 yards) drew much of Central’s defensive attention, allowing fellow Bears running back Trevor Ervin to find a hole and score on a 32-yard touchdown that tied it 21-21 in the third.
Ervin broke loose for a 60-yard touchdown run that gave Buchanan its first lead of the night at 27-21 with 9:32 to play. He finished with 16 carries for 210 yards.
Then a controversial play happened while Buchanan was on defense.
A starting safety for the Bears was ejected for diving to make a hit on a Central receiver who already was lying on the field as he attempted to make a catch.
When Central got the ball back for its go-ahead drive, what matchup did Tompkins look to exploit?
“I knew I had Jacob Torrez one-on-one with a backup safety – you got to take a chance,” Tompkins said. “It’s your best matchup.
“I threw it up where he could get it. And I know if I throw it within his vicinity, he’s going to come down with it.”