Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 | 11:25 p.m.
This improbable play saved the Faith Lutheran High football season.
The defending Division I-A state champion Crusaders trailed visiting Mojave by two points today with enough time on the clock for one play. With the starting quarterback injured a few plays earlier, backup Brendan Joyce was told to scramble out of the pocket to the left and heave the ball as far as he could.
Joyce followed instructions. Mark Rubalcaba did the rest.
Rubalcaba caught the ball around the 20-yard line and barely outraced Mojave’s Ty Flanagan to the end zone for a 77-yard score and the winning points in a 32-28 victory as the clock expired.
“I kneeled down and had my mouth wide open,” Faith Lutheran coach Vernon Fox said of his shock. “… It was a pretty special win.”
Faith Lutheran had dropped its initial two league games, including last week in double overtime to Cheyenne. Another loss would have likely ended any chance of Faith Lutheran being a playoff qualifier.
“It’s a reality we have come face-to-face with. The kids understand how vital it is that we win each week,” Fox said.
After losing to Clark and Cheyenne to start league play, and having just one victory in four games to open the season, Fox met with players and coaches this week to get their feedback on how to fix the problems. The Crusaders had second-half leads in the previous two weeks but couldn’t finish.
One of the suggestions was to put more of an emphasis on potential game-day situations, such as having to drive the length of the field at the end of the game to win. Like clockwork, the Crusaders were faced with that situation.
Faith Lutheran used its remaining two timeouts on defense to force Mojave to punt. The Crusaders received the ball inside their 20-yard line with about 35 seconds remaining.
On the first play, quarterback Greg Benson was injured, and Joyce came in for his first action of the game. A few plays later, Joyce and Rubalcaba saved the season.
“I can only hope this motivates these guys to believe they have what it takes,” Fox said. “I pray they understand what they are capable of and this gives us a catalyst for a lift.”
Christian Marshall had three touchdown runs for the Crusaders.
Mojave rushed for nearly 400 yards in the loss, including quarterback Zack Arave carrying the ball 16 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Flanagan rushed 20 times for 168 yards, and Davion Fletcher had two rushing touchdowns.