SELMA — Stephen Figures had one thought as he raced down the sideline during one of the crazier football plays you’ll ever see: “I better not get caught.”
Figures didn’t, and the result was an interception-return touchdown off of Selma’s attempted fake field goal and ultimately the deciding touchdown in a 28-27 Bakersfield Christian victory that puts the Eagles in the CIF Division 4AA state championship game next Saturday.
This wasn’t just a pick-six. It was a fake-three-pick-six-for-the-regional-championship, one of those plays that deserves its own nickname. The Fake-Six? The Figures Tour de Force?
“That was amazing how it just happened,” BCHS sophomore Alex Wallace said. “How did that happen?”
Here’s how it happened, as best as it can be explained in words: With Felipe Garcia lined up to try a 33-yard field goal with about nine minutes left in a 21-21 game, Selma coach Matt Logue — a gambler all night — went for a fake.
Holder Rudy Rodriguez picked up the snap and rolled to his right. It wasn’t clear whether he planned to run or pass initially, but BCHS senior Jeremiah Foster was on top of him almost immediately. Rodriguez tried to throw as he was hit, and the ball floated right into the arms of Figures, who out-ran Garcia and streaked 79 yards the other way in a stunning turn of events.
“I just thought, ‘It’s my time to shine,’” Figures said. “I’ve got this, and I’ve got to run.”
The play was even more meaningful for Figures because it was redemptive. Seven plays earlier, on the second play of the fourth quarter, Figures caught a screen pass from BCHS quarterback Braden Wingle, trucked a defender and juked another and went for 20 yards and a key first down.
Then the ball was ripped out, and Selma recovered. It was the first of several fourth-quarter plays in which the emotions of every person on both sidelines went on the world’s scariest roller coaster.
“What a fantastic play by both teams,” BCHS coach Darren Carr said. “And Stephen, he made up for it, didn’t he?”
Selma drove as far as the BCHS 6-yard line, but a bad snap and an incompletion set up the field goal attempt. Then came another one of those roller-coaster plays.
“I knew I couldn’t put my head down,” Figures said. “My team still needed me, and I kept my composure.”
Then came the final roller coaster of an instant classic: Selma scored with 1:02 left on a 44-yard pass from Junior Ramirez to Joel Aranda. After a timeout, the Bears went for a 2-point conversion: The pass was incomplete, the final emotion swing was complete and BCHS was headed to a state championship.
“Nothing happens by chance; you work hard, and it happens for a reason,” Carr said.
“I’m just glad it happened to Stephen.”