OAKLAND - Trey Miller lived up to his name on Saturday night, drilling a 42-yard field goal for the game-winning three points as Bishop O’Dowd advanced to the North Coast Section Division 3 championship game with a thrilling 37-34 win over Rancho Cotate.
Miller’s game-winning kick with three seconds remaining came after quarterback Joe Deluca checked down to Austin Jones all alone in the right flat on the previous play, and Jones scampered 19 yards down to the Rancho Cotate 25-yard line, stepping out of bounds with seven seconds left in the game. O’Dowd coach Napoleon Kaufman elected to send the field goal unit out at that time, and Miller kept his composure even after the Cougars’ staff took a timeout in an attempt to ice the kick.
O’Dowd had gotten the ball back after stopping the Cougars on three straight plays and forcing a punt, which was downed at the Rancho 44-yard line with 19 seconds remaining. Deluca threw one deep incomplete pass before finding Jones to set up the winning kick.
The Dragons’ defense set up the game-winning sequence, as Jordan Jackson and Cooper Hagmaier combined to sack Rancho quarterback Jake Simmons on first down of the previous possession, and Chris Lucas followed that with another sack on second down. Each yard proved critical in setting up the final possession and Miller’s kick.
Rancho Cotate had taken a 34-27 lead early in the fourth quarter, when Simmons scrambled out of trouble, bought himself extra time, and found Mason Heinse for the go-ahead touchdown. Rancho’s defense then came up with two big stops, punctuated by a pair of stops by Jakob Marshall.
The Cougars appeared to have taken a 14-point lead with just over five minutes to play, but Jaelen Ward’s 95-yard punt return was called back for a block in the back penalty, and a short punt after the ensuing possession left the Dragons with a short 37-yard field.
After a 15-yard run by Austin Jones and a pass from Deluca to Je’Quari Godfrey got the Dragons in scoring position, Hagmaier made a beautiful finger-tip grab in the back corner of the end zone for the 14-yard touchdown, tying the game with 2:05 remaining.
Early on, it looked like the game might be all O’Dowd, as Godfrey returned an interception for a touchdown on the first play of the game, and Ethan Baker-Greene made it a 13-0 lead for the Dragons in the first quarter with his two-yard scoring run. A pair of short scoring runs by Simmons, however, tied the game in the second quarter.
Jones broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown run in the second, but Rancho Cotate’s Peyton Whetstone responded with a four-yard score to knot things again at 20. The Cougars took their first lead of the game in the third quarter, on Simmons’ third touchdown run of the night, but the Dragons answered with a 70-yard pass from Deluca to Jevon Holland.
Bishop O’Dowd will now face Marin Catholic for the Division 3 title, Saturday night at Diablo Valley College. Game time is set for 7 pm.