Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008 | 1:15 a.m.
- Cowboys determined to keep cleat from rival Sundevils
- Wildcats dominate rivalry game in showdown of offenses
- Win puts Basic back in postseason
- Late conversion lifts Green Valley to dramatic win
- Healthy Palo Verde squad cruises to win
- Murray helps Liberty blow by Coronado
- Three turnovers doom Boulder City
- Roundup of other Las Vegas area prep games
- High school football scoring updates
Just seconds after announcing the homecoming court of queen Tabatha Wunsche and king Carl Vanlandingham, Chaparral High's announcer had a special message for the opposing crowd.
"Oh, by the way, Eldorado fans," he said over the loudspeaker, "the cleat's not leavin'."
That would be "the" cleat, a bronzed shoe worn by NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olson and the centerpiece of the Eldorado-Chaparral football rivalry.
With the Cowboys down 14-0 at the time, Sundevils fans had little reason to think of the taunt as anything more than hot air.
Nearly two quarters of football later, though, Vanlandingham made those words ring true, drilling a 27-yard field goal with less than nine seconds left for a 17-14 win, giving Chaparral the cleat for the second straight year.
"I don't think so," Vanlandingham said when asked if things could be better than the double of being named homecoming king and making the winning kick in a rivalry game. "There's no way to describe it. It just feels great."
Chaparral's game-winning drive both ended and began on the senior kicker's foot, as the Cowboys (3-5 overall, 2-3 Sunrise Northeast) used an onside kick to regain possession after Jermal Turner's 1-yard touchdown run had tied the game at 14-all with just over four minutes left.
Lined up to kickoff, Vanlandingham popped the ball over the front line of the Sundevils' return team and fellow senior Edward Weist recovered the kick at the Eldorado 40-yard line. Not that an onside kick was the plan, though.
"It was a pooch kick that came up a little short, and we ended up with it," Chaparral coach Fernando Carmona said of the lucky break. "We haven't had too many of those, and it was nice to get one."
After all of the first-half breaks going the Sundevils' way, the Cowboys made their own luck in the second half. Chaparral's defense clamped down and allowed just 26 yards of total offense after halftime, keeping Eldorado (4-4, 2-2) from moving past midfield on two of three possessions.
That's right — the Sundevils had the ball just three times in the second half after dominating the first two quarters and holding a 14-0 lead at intermission. The major difference was a Cowboys offensive line that took over in the second half, controlling the clock and field, and helping Chaparral put up 143 yards in the final two quarters -- more than twice as many as it had in the first half.
"We thought we had to come out and run the ball in the second half, kind of run that clock out a little bit," Eldorado coach Leon Evans said. "But my hat's off to them. They did a great job. They scored when they had to, and they made a huge play with that kick at the end."
The Cowboys' offense showed a marked improvement in their first possession of the third quarter, marching 71 yards on 12 plays and capping the drive with a 23-yard scamper by Turner.
"I told them we had actually played a pretty good game, but we had to come back and score on that first drive," Carmona said of his halftime instructions. "They just responded. Our seniors didn't want to leave without the cleat again."
Eldorado's offensive struggles in the second half weren't helped by the absence of quarterback JaQuorrey Williams who sat out after separating his throwing shoulder late in the second quarter. Leslie Hildreth took over as signal caller, completing just one of five passes and throwing a costly interception midway through the fourth period.
Just three plays after Cowboys defensive back Greg Tucker nearly picked off on a deep pass down the right hash marks, Hildreth threw a similar pass that Tucker snagged near midfield.
"I was mad that I didn't get that first one," Tucker said, "but the coaches just told me to keep my head up and just play hard and I'd get mine, and I did. I'm so happy right now."
Six plays after Tucker's interception, Turner tied the game by leaping and stretching his arms out above the goal line, setting up Vanlandingham's heroics.
"Turner's done a great job," Carmona said. "He's stepped in as our quarterback the last two weeks, and he's just turned into a leader. He's got his head straight. He's kept the huddle under control, and he's taken this team on his shoulder and led us."
Tone Gatewood had both touchdowns for the Sundevils, returning the game's opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 5-yard run with less than a minute left in the second quarter. The senior running back had 47 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 29 yards.
Eldorado will play host to Rancho (4-4, 3-1) next week, and Chaparral will travel to Desert Pines (2-5, 2-2).