Ridgeview High made it 2 for 3 against Dinuba in Central Section football championship games, beating the Emperors 16-14 Friday night for the Division II title.
This one was the closest: Dinuba, without a timeout, drove from its own 13-yard line to the Wolf Pack 38 in the final 1:25 before its fourth-down pass was intercepted with 25 seconds left.
Ridgeview won the D-III title in 2012 before losing to the Emperors in last year’s D-III final.
Ridgeview trailed 14-10 at the half despite a whopping 264-75 edge in total yardage. The Wolf Pack led 10-0, but Chandler Cocklin returned a Sheldon Croney fumble 35 yards for a touchdown with 4 seconds left in the first quarter, and Michael Wright added a short touchdown run before halftime after a Dinuba interception.
The Wolf Pack, on the other hand, had two first-half turnovers and ran out of time at the end of the half with the ball on the Dinuba 5-yard line.
Dinuba reached the Ridgeview 3-yard line on the first possession of the second half, but Jaccob Lopez recovered a fumbled snap exchange.
“We had the ball down there and just couldn’t punch it in,” said Dinuba coach Kevin Scharton, whose team lost standout defensive tackle Dawuud Davis to an ankle injury early in the game. “They have weapons all over the field, and it’s tough to contain them for four quarters.”
The Wolf Pack then went on a 97-yard touchdown drive capped by Croney’s 7-yard touchdown run.
“I really wanted to end my career with a win, for myself and for these guys,” Croney said.
Rey Garza, who made a 22-yard field goal earlier, missed the extra point after Croney’s TD, leaving Ridgeview vulnerable to a possible game-winning field goal. But Dinuba never got in position. Cristion Brown intercepted a pass with 8:38 left, and a Preveon Alexander sack helped force a turnover on downs at the 2:06 mark.
“Our defense played a heck of a game,” Ridgeview quarterback Lawrence White said. “If it wouldn’t have been for them, we would have lost this game.”
The top-seeded Wolf Pack (12-1) dominated the line of scrimmage, helping to hold third-seeded Dinuba (11-2) to 101 rushing yards on 33 carries and getting crucial pressure on Dinuba QB Isaac Leppke in the fourth quarter. Twice they sacked him and forced Dinuba to give the ball back with Ridgeview clinging to a 16-14 lead.