CARSON — Dustin Hayes, like everyone at the Home Depot Center, expected Parker quarterback Deon Randall to tuck the ball under his arm and run toward the end zone.
That was Randall’s plan, until he saw Modesto Christian’s linebackers inching forward. So he changed the call, and with it changed the fate of both football programs.
"I was going to run, but the linebackers were blitzing and I checked off," said Randall, who had spent much of the game running circles around the defense. "I thought we’d have a better chance to score with me throwing a pass, better than me trying to run it."
The play at the 2-yard line went awry, though, as Hayes jammed a receiver at the line and helped tackle another 5 yards short of the end zone — forcing Parker to turn the ball with 1:40 left in the game.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The defensive stand was the difference as MC outlasted Parker 44-40 to win the CIF Small School Bowl, becoming the first Stanislaus District team to win a state crown.
"With one play left, and the way (Randall) was playing, we knew what was coming," said Hayes, a 6-foot-4 cornerback. "When he threw the ball, everyone was shocked."
Randall had taken Parker 63 yards to the 2, accounting for 61 rushing yards on the drive, and was facing a fourth-and-goal with a 44-40 deficit.
He came to the line and, after seeing the defense alignment, called for a timeout.
"We were in man-cover and had Isaiah (Burse) and Tyke (Andrew) blitzing," MC defensive coordinator Darin Higgins said. "When they came out of the timeout, we went to zone and it changed Dustin’s job. That’s what made the difference. Dustin was there."
Hayes would have followed the slant across the middle in man, and would have left the defense thin on the left side. His role in zone was to bump the slant receiver, and allow him to run toward the safety,
Randall didn't realize that.
He pumped to the slant and zipped a pass down the line to Dalante Dunkin. Before Dunkin could take a step forward, Hayes and two other Crusaders buried him at the 5.
MC picked up a first down moments later, and the several hundred faithful who made the six-hour trip celebrated.
It was OK with the Crusaders that Randall didn’t get the ball on possibly the biggest play in his school’s history. He had already run 36 times for 276 yards, scoring three TDs and repeatedly running around MC’s weary defenders. His 5-yard run on second-and-goal from the 10, which turned out to be his last, set up the frenetic final plays.
Tailback Kenny Brookins got the call on third down and took the ball to the 2. Then came the game-deciding play, preceded by a battle of wits.
Randall’s first pass option was to hit Roland Jackson as he flashed across the middle, but he assumed Hayes was going to stay with the receiver. So he threw a bubble pass to Dunkin, but he had no blockers and was parallel to the line — so he had no momentum when he caught it. Hayes arrived first, and two teammates quickly joined in.
Had Randall recognized the zone, he would have known Jackson was going to be open for a moment as responsibility shifted from Hayes to the safety — creating a small window. Instead, Randall threw into the worst possible area.
"They were running from Isaiah all night, so we forced them into changing the call," nose tackle Raymond Nelson said. "If it’s my call, I don't go against Isaiah in that spot. Isaiah makes those plays."
It was a stunning sequence of events, considering how Randall dominated the first 46 minutes. He accounted for 390 of Parker’s 454 yards and all five of its TDs — only one player has run for more yards in a State Bowl (Tyler Gaffney, Cathedral Catholic, 329 yards in 2008), and no one has ever had more carries in a championship game.
Randall was one half of an amazing battle between two of the state’s top dual-threat players. Burse, weighing offers from Fresno State and Nevada, ran for 139 yards and a TD and threw for three scores.
"Randall is a great athlete, and his team counts on him the same way that we count on Isaiah," MC’s Kevin Roya said. "But he’s not Isaiah. There's only one Isaiah, and we've got him on our team."