MERCED — Travante Richard called it the second-biggest catch of his high school career.
Some disagree, but everyone in black and orange was celebrating after the Merced High senior outjumped Pitman's Ken Nichols to haul in a 23-yard touchdown reception with 8 seconds left to lift the Bears to a 21-14 win on Friday night at Veterans Stadium. (See video highlights and interview)
"That ball was high," said Richard, who caught nine passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. "It was in the lights. I had to go up and get it. I was waiting for somebody to hit me.
"I just wanted to win the game. There was nothing else on my mind. I can't even describe what it felt like to catch it."
Richard still ranks his game-winning touchdown against Downey in Merced's first on-campus home game last year at No. 1 on his list.
"I'd have to disagree," Bears head coach Rob Scheidt said. "Historically, that catch against Downey might be bigger, but I think this was a bigger catch. First place in league was on the line."
The Bears (6-2 overall, 3-0 Central California Conference) overcame a shaky performance that included three turnovers and 14 penalties, resulting in 140 yards.
Merced turned the ball over twice in the first half, which helped Pitman pull even at 7-7 just before halftime.
The Pride (5-3, 1-2) opened the second half with their only long drive of the game. Pitman used 15 consecutive rushing plays to march 73 yards, with Mario Lewis scoring the touchdown on a 2-yard burst to take a 14-7 lead with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
"That's a very good football team," Pitman head coach Tom Tyler said. "We played well. I thought we outplayed them. We just didn't get it done, but I'm proud of our guys."
The Bears finally got their ground game going in the second half as Kris Turner-Jackson tied the game with a touchdown run on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
After giving up the long drive, the Bears defense didn't surrender a first down the rest of the way.
Two false start penalties on Pitman helped stop key drives which gave the ball back to the Bears.