After two holy terrors at running back took over the 45th Holy Bowl for three hours, one defense finally found a way to stand its ground.
Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial beat Garces 41-35 on Saturday night at Sam Tobias Field, riding junior Chris Brown, his 280 rushing yards, 416 all-purpose yards and six total touchdowns.
All that actually might not have been enough if it weren’t for the Panthers defense, which twice forced Garces (2-1) to turn the ball over on downs inside the Memorial 30 in the game’s final six minutes. The last time, Blake Campbell’s fourth-and-9 pass fell incomplete.
“We stopped down there, thank the Lord,” Memorial coach Anthony Goston said. “But what a great game. Two great teams, going at it. It’s exciting for our kids.”
Jalen Sykes was the star for Garces. He carried 18 times for 272 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s quite a player,” Garces coach John Roberts said. “A lot of kids played very well, and I’m proud of them. They played hard, and we played a good football team. Just came up short.”
Grant Campbell had 52 yards rushing and three scores, and Zack Puente ran for 74 yards.
“We knew from watching film that they were good,” Goston said. “And I thought we were pretty good. It just came down to the end.”
The victory gave Memorial (3-0) a crucial arguing point for Division II Central Section playoff seeding, and if the teams meet again in the postseason, it’ll likely be in Fresno.
Brown, who has early scholarship offers from UNLV and Arizona State, rumbled up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown, his last, to give Memorial the lead with 7:12 to play. When Panthers quarterback Bryant Cummings hit Jordan Stallworth for a two-point conversion, it was 41-35.
Sykes went for 40 yards on the first play of the next drive, but a personal-foul penalty pushed the Rams back, and they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Memorial went three-and-out, but again, Garces could only got as far as the 22-yard line when, with less than a minute left, Memorial made its last stand.
“We did what we were doing the whole game, and they played hard,” Grant Campbell said. “They brought it 100 percent the last series, but we should have scored there.”
Brown was the man all night for Memorial, which had just three carries by other running backs. Garces had a 21-13 lead in the first half when Brown took a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to cut the halftime deficit to 21-19.
“He’s a stud,” said Campbell, who also plays linebacker. “He’s a great running back, best running back we’ve played. Fast, hard to bring down.”
The Panthers went 66 yards in 14 plays and 7:01 to start the second half, and when Brown scored from 3 yards out, they had the lead. Garces responded in just thre plays, and the teams went back and forth for the rest of the second half.
“That was just a very exciting high school football game,” Roberts said. “We had an opportunity at the end, and we didn’t get it done.”