Hoping to make a second consecutive trip to the state football semifinals, Moriarty needed either a big defensive clampdown or one last offensive drive.
But the visiting St. Michael’s Horsemen corraled the Pintos.
Moriarty couldn’t stop the No. 6 Horsemen from scoring the game-winning touchdown with just under a minute remaining, and the Pintos’ offense came up short on its final possession as St. Mike’s prevailed 36-33 in last Friday’s Class 4A quarterfinals.
“I knew tonight was going to be tough, I really did,” Moriarty head coach Joe Anaya said. “But when you play good teams like that you’ve got to make stops, you’ve got to make plays. We made our share of plays, but they turned around and made big plays when they needed to.”
Trailing 30-21 in the fourth quarter, the No. 3 Pintos looked poised to possibly pull off a win when they rallied for two unanswered touchdowns.
Quarterback Dylan Tapia hooked up with Jesse Lara for a 48-yard touchdown pass with 4:24 remaining in the game.
Then, after a recovering the onside kick, Tapia capped a seven-play drive by shadowing the linchpin of his offensive line— Santiago Mora—into the end zone with an 18-yard jaunt to give the Pintos a 33-30 lead with 2:22 left.
“I faked, and they were all just looking at Elijah [Tapia], and Santi went to kick it out and I just followed him,” Tapia said. “We were really fired up at that point, we all thought that we were gonna do it.”
But St. Mike’s Antonio Gabaldon’s touchdown pass with 47.8 left on the clock allowed the Horsemen to eke out the victory.
“Our kids have stepped up to that challenge many times,” Anaya said. “That’s not the first time we’ve been in those situations, so I thought maybe we’d pull this one off but we just couldn’t seem to stop them.”
It was really Gabaldon who the Pintos couldn’t stop, as he completed 25 passes for 446 yards.
“That kid was on fire—he played a heck of a game,” Anaya said.
The Pintos had one last-ditch offensive chance with just over 40 seconds remaining but the drive stalled at the St. Mike’s 42-yard line.
The game was a back-and-forth battle from the outset: St. Mike’s took an early 6-0 lead, but Moriarty’s Elijah Tapia returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to put the Pintos ahead 8-6.
J.P. Carmona’s touchdown put Moriarty up 14-6 at the end of the first quarter but the Horsemen scored twice to lead 18-14 at halftime.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Tapia connected on a 15-yard TD strike to Aaron Murphy who bowled over two St. Mike’s defenders to put the Pintos back on top, 21-18.
Later in the third quarter, Moriarty’s other QB, Nick Padilla—after handing the ball off to Marvin Encinias—took a flagrant late hit from a Horsemen defender.
Padilla stayed on the ground for several minutes surrounded by coaches and paramedics. He was eventually carted off the field on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. His parents confirmed he suffered a dislocated shoulder.
The Horsemen were penalized for a personal foul resulting in a first down for the Pintos but the drive derailed when Tapia overthrew Murphy on fourth-and-7 at the St. Mike’s 22-yard line.
Reflecting on his second consecutive nine-win season Anaya said it was a lot of fun. “I’ve got to give credit to these guys,” he said of his players. “They never quit, these kids played their butts off. It’s been one heck of a run.”