By Richard Paolinelli
Junior Jeff Blean had never attempted a field goal in his varsity career at Live Oak High School.
So with the score tied at 14 in Friday's semifinal game of the Central Coast Section's Medium School Division playoffs and just 16 seconds left on the clock, Blean was called on to try to win the game with a 20-yard field goal attempt.
After two timeouts to try to freeze the first-time kicker, Blean drilled the kick to give Live Oak a 17-14 victory over Saratoga and sent the Acorns (8-4) into this weekend's section title game against Riordan, which defeated Pioneer 48-20 on Saturday.
"I got nervous after the first timeout," Blean told the San Jose Mercury News after the game-winning kick. "And even more nervous after the second one. That was the most pressure I have ever felt. But it's the best feeling in the world right now."
Blean was forced into the role of game-saver when starting kicker Casey Mott tore an anterior cruciate ligament during a soccer game last week. Blean hadn't even tried an extra-point attempt in the game as the Acorn coaches elected to go for two-point conversions on both of Live Oak's touchdowns.
In the Open School Division, Oak Grove advanced to the school's 12th section championship game after dispatching Bellarmine Prep 35-21 Friday in San Jose.
Nevin Gardiner piled up 275 rushing yards to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark for the second straight year to lead the Eagles (11-1), but it was a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Danny Ochoa on fourth-and-13 in the final two minutes that sealed the win for Oak Grove.
Oak Grove will play Gilroy, which defeated Los Gatos 40-34 Saturday, in this weekend's section championship game.
In the Large School Division, Menlo-Atherton upended Aragon for the second time this year as the Bears set the tone for the game by recovering a squib kick on the opening kickoff and advanced to the section title game with a 41-28 victory.
Menlo-Atherton will face Palo Alto, the defending section champions and last year's state runner-up, who defeated North Salinas 7-0 Saturday, in this weekend's title game.
In the Small School Division, Pacific Grove advanced to its second straight section title game with a 29-20 victory over Scotts Valley. Pacific Grove will face Santa Cruz, 42-7 winners over Del Mar, in this weekend's section championship game.