It’s often said that football is a game of inches. Nowhere was that more apparent than in last Friday’s Blossom Valley League Mount Hamilton Division game between the Live Oak High and Lincoln High football teams. Acorns quarterback Jonathan Singleton dove for the end zone only to have the ball knocked away just before he reached the goal line, inches short from what would’ve been a spectacular comeback victory.
Instead, Live Oak lost 27-24, dropping to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in league play. The Acorns still have an outside shot to share the league championship. Front-runner Lincoln (5-0) closes the league season with games against perennial title contenders Oak Grove and Piedmont Hills. Live Oak plays Santa Teresa on Friday before closing out the regular-season against Oak Grove.
“It’s devastating, but we’ll bounce back from this,” said Acorns junior Matt Blocker, who had seven receptions for 84 yards. “We’re not going to hang our heads for too long. It’s one loss and we’ll have to get back on track.”
Live Oak totaled 454 yards of offense to Lincoln’s 365, but it also lost the turnover battle, 3-0, including the fumble at the goal line as time expired. With the Acorns facing a third-and-6 from the Lincoln 10-yard line with 8.6 seconds left and no timeouts, Singleton dropped back to pass before taking off for the end zone.
He eluded a couple of defenders before a Lincoln player jarred the ball loose with a strong hit, setting off a wild Lions celebration. Initially, the Acorns were furious with the call, however; they know mistakes and breakdowns throughout the contest ultimately is what cost them the game, not the final play.
“I was right at the goal line on the same side with Jonathan,” Blocker said. “I couldn’t tell if he was past the goal line or not.”
The Lions, who attempted only two passes the entire game—misfiring on both—totaled 365 yards rushing on 58 carries. They gashed the Live Oak defense repeatedly with their trio of running backs, basically running the same plays over and over again. The Acorns finally buckled down in the second half, allowing just seven points while containing the Lincoln ground game for the most part.
That allowed the Live Oak offense to get into gear, and the Lions didn’t have an answer. Singleton and his receiving corps repeatedly picked apart the Lincoln defense, as Singleton finished 24-of-37 for 270 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Blocker had a terrific game as did fellow receiver Elijah Fernandez, who finished with seven catches for 89 yards.
Caleb Ojeda had six receptions for 57 yards, and Singleton was deadly on the ground once again, finishing with 115 yards on 15 carries. The Lions scored on four of their five first-half possessions. Ironically enough, the one time Live Oak prevented the home side from scoring in the first half came on Lincoln’s longest series of the game, a 15-play drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock in the second quarter.
The Acorns trailed 20-3 late in the first half when Singleton found Blocker in the back of the end zone as time expired, giving them something to build upon entering halftime. After stopping Lincoln on the opening possession of the third quarter, Live Oak received great field position after Jesse Isais returned a punt 45 yards to the Lincoln 37-yard line.
Just when it looked like the Acorns were going to take control of the game, the Lions came up wit an interception after a Singleton pass went off the hands of a receiver, and Lincoln took over at its 8-yard line. However, the Live Oak defense forced a three-and-out, and Live Oak responded on the ensuing drive with a score, capped by Nick Lomanto’s 3-yard TD run around left end to cut the Live Oak deficit to 20-17 with 21.7 seconds left in the third.
Neither team scored on their next possessions, but the Lions scored a TD with 2:41 to go to seemingly seal Live Oak’s fate. However, Singleton connected with Blocker for a 21-yard TD with 1:51 left before Lincoln recovered the ensuing onside kick. The Live Oak defense came up with another big stop, forcing a three-and-out to give the Acorns one final shot to tie or win the game.
Starting at its 24, Singleton marched the team down the field, running for 5 yards before picking up 27 yards on another run. He then hit Fernandez for a 12-yard gain before busting off another huge run, this time for 18 yards. That gave the Acorns a first-and-goal from the 10. After Lomanto was stopped for no gain, Singleton spiked the ball with 8.2 seconds remaining, setting up the team’s final play of the game. Blocker said the loss hurt for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Lincoln couldn’t defend Live Oak’s passing attack.
“They were playing off me a lot,” Blocker said. “They were 10, 15 yards off me, and if I’m being honest, they weren’t very good at covering. They couldn’t really guard any of us. I felt like I had an advantage on them with my speed, and I was able to beat them on the post every time and beat them deep. They weren’t able to keep up with me.”
Connor Dietz (11 solo tackles) and Jered Brindle (10 solo tackles) led the Live Oak defense.