Leading 21-16 with the ball and two minutes left Friday night at West Valley (Calif.), Spanish Springs coach Eric Borja went for the throat. He missed.
The Cougars (1-3, 0-0) fell 24-16 in their final nonleague game of the season.
Holding the five-point lead, the Cougars faced third and six from their own 36 with 120 seconds left. The Trojans (4-1, 0-0) were out of timeouts. Instead of attempting to run the ball and melt clock against a defensive front that allowed just 48 rushing yards on 25 attempts, Borja attempted to win the game with a first down through the air.
“We get that first down and it’s a different story,” Borja said.
Quarterback Korbin Marcum’s 10-yard in was knocked down and Spanish Springs was forced to punt with 1:56 remaining.
West Valley quarterback Kody Karpinski took advantage, engineering a four-play drive that concluded with a 20-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 42 seconds left. The two-point conversion was successful.
“It was definitely a learning moment,” Borja said. “We played physical. We played tough. Unfortunately, they made the play when they had to.”
Marcum’s last-second hail mary was picked off to end thoughts of a miracle. The junior, who took over the starting role, completed 12-of-20 passes for 158 yards along with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Both of his touchdown passes went to junior wideout Austin Cadenhead who caught four balls for 112 yards to go along with the two scores.
Cadenhead, who accounted for all three of Spanish Springs’ touchdowns, caught a 56-yard bomb in the first half and returned a kickoff 80 yards to help spot the Cougs a 13-3 lead after two quarters.
Defensively, Borja said he was pleased. The unit held a West Valley offense that entered averaging almost 38 points a game, in check for the majority of the night.
“Our defense played great run defense,” Spanish Springs’ second-year coach said. “For a team that wants to run the ball, something had to give (on last drive).”
Jacob Dye picked off a pair of Karpinski passes in the loss.
Spanish Springs lost to West Valley at home last season, 21-7.
It now gets increasingly serious for Spanish Springs, and the rest of the teams in the DI North for that matter, as league play starts next week.
The Cougars begin their High Desert League slate at home against North Valleys Friday night at 7 p.m.
The Panthers (1-3, 0-0) have been outscored 177-55 in their four contests this fall.
“The four-game preseason is over,” Borja said. “It’s all about league.”