Scott Sacuskie didn’t hesitate.
After the Johansen High football team pulled within one point of Los Banos in the final minute Friday night, Sacuskie, the Vikings’ head coach, quickly raised two fingers. They were going for 2.
“We came here to win,” Sacuskie said.
Unfortunately for Johansen, the 2-point pass play fell incomplete and the Vikings left Los Banos, a 34-33 winner, without the victory they had fought so hard to get.
It was Johansen’s first Western Athletic League loss of the season, and while it will sting for a while, Sacuskie said he feels his team will respond well.
“If the play works, ‘great call, coach’ and if the play doesn’t work, ‘terrible call coach’,” Sacuskie said of his decision to go for the 2-point conversion. “We came here to win and I thought we had them on the ropes.
“This one hurts. This one hurts real bad.”
The Vikings (5-2, 3-1) can still claim at least a share of the WAC title by winning their final three games.
Of course, the road to the championship would have been made easier with a win in Los Banos, but the Tigers had just enough to hold off the Vikings.
Justin Incaprera rushed for 271 yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries to lead the way for Los Banos.
“That’s a good football team,” Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said of Johansen. “We told our guys there’s no quit.”
It was a back and forth battle the entire night, but when Incaprera ran 53 yards for his fifth TD it looked as though that would be it.
But trailing by 7 with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left and the ball at their own 12-yard line, Johansen mounted a dramatic final drive.
The Vikings moved into Los Banos territory and with 47 seconds left, Johansen quarterback John Romero connected with wide receiver Tiernan Collins, who ran in for a touchdown.
Sacuskie immediately signaled for the 2-point conversion and after a timeout the Vikings were ready. Romero rolled left and threw, but Los Banos tipped the ball away to hang on to the win.
While Incaprera scored all of Los Banos’ touchdowns, Johansen used a more balanced offensive approach. The Vikings have a stable of talented running backs, including seniors Jesse Arriola and Jacob McClure, juniors Abel Lugo and Nicolas Bello, and sophomore Dorian Alvarez.
Arriola scored twice, including a 53-yard burst up the middle, and Romero threw three TD passes, including an 18-yard beauty to Angel Rodriguez, who made a leaping one-handed grab just before halftime.
The Vikings will look to bounce back next Friday against Lathrop, which has struggled to a 1-6 record. After that, Johansen will face Modesto rivals Davis (6-1, 3-1 WAC) and Beyer (5-2, 4-0 WAC) to end the regular season.