By Jacob H. Pollon
For The SignalEL SEGUNDO — The Santa Clarita Christian football team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Saturday night in a 22-21 setback against St. Bernard of Playa Del Rey at El Segundo High School.
Leading by seven points with under two minutes remaining in the game, the Cardinals surrendered a 78-yard touchdown pass from Mike Culpepper to Jai Torres and the Vikings were successful on a controversial two-point conversion to come away with the win.
“They made one more play than we did,” Santa Clarita Christian coach Mark Bates said. “We had chances well before all that. We blew the coverage on the touchdown. We didn’t have our guy prepared. That play was something St. Bernard hadn’t shown.”
A wacky sequence took place right after the Torres touchdown. St. Bernard (2-0) was lining up for a chance to tie the game with a PAT. An SCCS offsides penalty moved the ball closer. St. Bernard then lined up to go for the win with a two-point conversion. St. Bernard was whistled for a false start and the ball was moved back five yards. The Vikings lined up for a PAT. The Cardinals were then whistled for another offsides penalty.
The ball was moved to the four-yard line and the Vikings decided to again go for the win. Torres took a handoff up the middle and his forward momentum was clearly stopped, but no whistle came and he flipped the ball at the last second to Tyrese Allen before his knee hit the grass.
“We let one get away,” Bates said.
Santa Clarita Christian was primed for victory after Ethan Schwesinger caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Blake Kirshner at the third quarter buzzer. That would be the last score for the Cardinals (1-1).
Schwesinger and his brother Carson were Kirshner’s favorite targets. Carson finished with eight receptions for 86 yards and Ethan had six receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Carson also was big defensively with a fumble recovery and interception — both in the first half.
Kirshner completed 22 of 40 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Kirshner’s 55-yard touchdown strike to Lucas Pettee gave Santa Clarita Christian an early 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
Torres finished with 222 yards rushing on 23 carries to lead St. Bernard. He also rushed for a 78-yard touchdown to send the teams into the locker room tied at 7-7.
Culpepper completed 7 of 18 passes for 170 yards for the Vikings, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Allen in the third quarter to knot things at 14-14.
Allen intercepted Kirshner with just over one minute remaining to seal the game.
“We were up a score with the ball,” Bates said. “We couldn’t get a first down.”
St. Bernard had three turnovers and was penalized 15 times for 162 yards.
Santa Clarita Christian returns home next week to host Northgate of Walnut Creek at 7 p.m. Saturday at College of the Canyons.