By Nathaniel Graham
For The Signal
Saugus football led for a total of one second in their home playoff game against Bishop Diego. It was only that one second that mattered as Centurions quarterback Cole Gallagher was able to lead the Centurions in a 38-35 comeback victory to be remembered — punctuated by a 43-yard, last-second, game-winning field goal by Colton Dolder.
Junior tailback Adrian Socacco was the star of the game on offense for Bishop Diego, rushing for over 300 yards. However, it was all for naught, as a costly fumble with less than two minutes to play allowed the Centurions to drive 30 yards down the field and set up Dolder’s field goal with only one second left on the clock.
Gallagher said he was impressed by the Cardinals’ running back, Socacco.
“That guy knows how to play, man,” said the Centurions’ quarterback. “He’s only a junior so I’m sure he’s going to have another great year next year and I can’t wait to see what he does.”
The Centurions (7-3) elected to put their faith in the arm of Gallagher, who went 25-of-42 through the air with 344 yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (4-6) elected to put their faith in their running game, rushing for over 450 yards.
A fumble recovery in the first quarter nearly saw Bishop Diego run away with the advantage as they extended their lead to 13-0 and gained the momentum in the process.
The Centurions would not be counted out as Gallagher led the team back with 176 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns in the first half, siphoning the Cardinals’ lead to just one point at the end of the half, 21-20.
The Cardinals entered the second half firing on all cylinders as they marched 80 yards in a drive capped off by a 14-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Jake Engel.
The Centurions answered right back with an 80-yard drive of their own. Gallagher continued his dominance, running for a 3-yard touchdown and completing a quick-snap dump pass to his tight end for the two-point conversion, evening the game up at 28.
A pair of scores between the two teams tied the game up at 35 and gave Gallagher and the Centurions the ball with about three minutes left.
A freak deflection caused an interception, which gave the Cardinals the ball on the Saugus 35 and seemingly the victory.
The Saugus defense did not allow the comeback to be in vain, though, as they forced a fumble and gave Gallagher the ball back on the Saugus 25.
Gallagher stormed the Centurions down the field with a series of short sideline passes, milking the clock and giving Dolder the chance to kick a game-winning, 43-yard field goal. Saugus’ kicker had already missed a field goal and an extra point in the game. However, he hit the long one that mattered the most to advance the Centurions to the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs. His teammates mobbed him and the celebration began — but there was one piece of business remaining: With a second left on the clock, the Centurions had to kick off.
Saugus took no chances on a big return, calling for an onside kick that was quickly swarmed upon by the Centurions’ tacklers as the clock expired.
“We really believe and preach that as long as you have air in your lungs you’re still in the fight,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. “A lot of these kids have played together for a long time and it’s just who they are — they’re going to fight until the very end.”
Saugus will look to make it to the semifinals as they take on Villa Park next week.