Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa had no words.
Senior running back Kyle Jacklich had tears coming down his face while answering questions.
A championship had just been taken away from the Raiders in a cruel fashion.
Del Oro (12-1) had just overcome an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Raiders (11-2), 20-17 and win the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title at Hornets Stadium in Sacramento on Saturday and the looks of the Central Catholic coaches and players said it all:
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“That’s why football is a great game and that’s why it’s a bad game,” Canepa told his team after the game. “You put so much into it so when you lose, it hurts.”
Perhaps no player felt the loss more than Jacklich, who fumbled for the second time with a 1:52 left. The ball was scooped up by Golden Eagles senior defensive back Matthew Smart and returned for 42 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
“I take full responsibilities for my actions,” Jacklich said. “It was my mistake. I fumbled the ball. I dropped the ball (dropped punt return in third quarter). That was on me. No one else did it but me.”
At the start of the fourth, the Raiders were in complete control and were on their way to a second title in four years.
Jacklich had just scored on a two-yard touchdown and Central Catholic led 17-6 with 11:07 left.
“Our linemen were making holes,” Jacklich said. “We have a great offensive line; I couldn’t have asked for a better offensive line my senior year.”
The Raiders maintained the 11-point lead until the Golden Eagles scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Carson Jarratt to senior running back Dawson Hurst.
Central Catholic kept the ball for the next four and half minutes until Jacklich’s fumble.
Down 3 and with no timeouts left, the Raiders offense trotted back on the field behind backup junior quarterback Kyle Jackson, who was in the game after starter junior Dalton Durrossette was ejected for throwing a punch in the third quarter.
With a little under 40 seconds left, Jackson threw a pass over the middle that was intercepted by senior defensive back Dante Percin.
“We put ourselves in a position to win,” Canepa said. “ I am speechless; that is a game we should have won.”
Before the heartbreaking end, this Central Catholic team was resilient all night. Senior running back Dawaiian McNeely had 25 carries for 121 yards.
Though McNeely was injured in the final play of the first half, he played in the second half on both offense and defense.
Same can be said for senior D’Angelo Bellamy, who had eight carries for 82 yards and one touchdown as well as nine tackles.
“Tonight just shows no matter how many people get down, how many people get hurt, we are going to come and play,” Jacklich said.
With tears in their eyes and their heads down, Central Catholic players walked to the locker room and passed by the trophy presentation for Del Oro.
“We should have won this game,” Jacklich said. “Mistakes happen and we have to live with them.”