SAN FRANCISCO —
With 10 turnovers and more than 20 penalties, the 92nd Turkey Day Game will never be considered one of its jewels.
But for all those who witnessed, they'll be talking about the ending for a very long time. Mission (San Francisco, Calif.)
linebacker Anthony Porter
wrapped up Balboa (San Francisco)
6-foot-2, 231-pound quarterback Lee Lelea
inches short of the goal line on a potential game-winning two-point conversion try with 1:22 to play as the Bears held on for a 14-13 San Francisco Section victory.
No one questioned that Porter stopped Lelea before any of his body crossed the line, but the heady quarterback held the ball straight out around the plane of the goal before being pushed back.
LeLea had just completed a spectacular 38-yard touchdown pass to Natali Cisneros
to close to within one point.
"I got in, I know I did," Lelea said. "The refs missed it."
Balboa first-year coach Poutoa Fuega agreed.
"If there's instant replay, we win," he said.
Porter, who earlier caught a 21-yard touchdown pass, was quite positive the refs got it right.
"I'm not really sure how I did it, but for sure he didn't get in," Porter said.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Porter said he had extra incentive to make the play.
In 2012, Mission lost 22-21 to Lincoln on a last-minute two point conversion. Porter's brother Antoine was the quarterback on that Mission team and accounted for 316 yards. But he went home a very disappointed loser.
"I couldn't let it happen again," Anthony Porter said.
After Mission recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock, the Bears won their second straight SFS championship — the first time they have ever repeated — and eighth overall. It will now compete in a CIF regional playoff play-in game, the first time it has ever played past Thanksgiving.
"These guys always find a way," Mission coach Joe Albano said. "They've done a lot of great things the last two years. They've set history. Today wasn't pretty, but we got the win and we're moving on."
Despite four turnovers, Mission somehow maintained a 8-7 halftime lead.
The Bears drove 56 yards on its first drive but Cisneros set the tone with a tackle and fumble recovery at the Balboa 12.
Mission drove up and down the field all half, but continued to shoot itself in the foot, until Niamey Harris
completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Porter with 4:45 left in the half.
Harris, who three plays earlier was knocked out of the game, fired a strike that Porter snagged around his knees and sprinted the last 10 yards for a score. A two-point conversion by Jeff Branner
gave Mission an 8-0 lead.
"Harris throws the ball hard," Porter said. "I'm used to it by now."
Mission defensive lineman Donae Jones
intercepted a deflected Henry Iulio
pass but on the next play, the ball slipped out of Niamey Harris' hands and Balboa's recovered.
On the next play, Iulio completed a wide receiver screen to Cisneros, who ran over a defensive back at the 10 en route to a 23-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 8-7 with 2:43 left in the half.
It was a bitter defeat to a sweet season for Balboa (6-5), which was after its first section crown since 1984 and ninth overall. The Buccaneers committed six turnovers — five on interceptions — and had a spectacular 95-yard interception return for touchdown by Lelea wiped out just before the half by an illegal block.
On another close call late in the third quarter, Lelea scrambled to the Mission 4, fell to the turf, the ball popped lose and Mission's LaCharles Wells recovered. Lelea writhed in pain with a knee injury while the ball was signaled to the Bears.
"I went down when I felt my knee go out and then the ball came out," LeLea said. "There were so many close calls."
That was unlike the first meeting between the teams, a 48-6 Mission win in early October. Even though Balboa made up lots of ground in six weeks, "this one hurts worse. Way worse. We had the game in our grasp. We just made too many mistakes," Fuega said.
Both teams did.
Mission had a chance to increase its 8-7 lead but kept stalling. A 42-yard touchdown pass from Niamey Harris to Frank Harris
was wiped out by a penalty early in the third.
But Tyrese Johnson
's second interception set up a 65-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 3-yard TD run Niamey Harris to finally give Mission some breathing room, a 14-7 lead with 4:57 to play.
Balboa, which had just 133 total yards to that point, made one last gallant push with a gimpy LeLea at the helm.
On third-and-10 from Mission 38, the Sacramento State-bound quarterback limped left, bought some time and then heaved the ball perfectly in the front left corner of the end zone where Cisneros out-leaped a defender and pulled the ball in just inbounds.
"Our guys never quit," said Fuega, whose team got a tremendous all-around performance from junior lineman Nicholas Sagaiga
But Porter didn't quit on the two-point try when LeLea seemed to have an open lane.
"It means a lot to make history," Porter said. "This is a game we'll never forget."