Sierra Canyon rallies to defeat Warren in a thriller

After the madness subsided after the insane crowd besieged a field in Sierra Canyon that had seen few victories like this, Trailblazers quarterback Alonzo Esparza held an imaginary football in his hands and once again mimed the game of his life.

Fourth and 16th in midfield. All hope seems lost. Sierra Canyon trails Warren in this Division 2 opening round playoff match by seven, just minutes. But Esparza saw a cornerback play against 6-foot-5 BYU commit Josiah Phillips, the Warren safety pressing and that he had a one-on-one shot.

“I said, ‘OK, you know what, I like it,'” Esparza said.

Esparza rolled and fired a high spiral at Phillips, who jumped 43 yards over the cornerback.

A few games later, Sierra Canyon was in the end zone, Esparza pumping his fists and sprinting across the field as the Trailblazers clinched a 22-21 win after the Bears missed a last-second field goal attempt.

“The best players play where it really matters,” Esparza said after the win.

The two programs exchanged blows throughout the night. After throwing eight yards in the first quarter-and-a-half, Warren’s five-star quarterback and Tennessee engagement Nico Iamaleava came alive in the third quarter, converting attempts with the third down to give Warren a 21-14 lead.

“Nico can’t win this game alone,” Bears coach Kevin Pearson said Thursday.

And yet he almost did when he advanced to the punt after an unsuccessful fourth-quarter drive and kicked a beauty that pinned the Trailblazers to their own one-yard line. With six minutes remaining, Sierra Canyon got some leeway into midfield thanks to second running back Dane Dunn, who shredded the Warren defense for 87 yards in the first half.

Phillips then came down with that ball, awakening a muffled Trailblazer crowd that only got louder when Esparza turned a pass to Jaylen’dai Sumlin in the left corner of the end zone.

They were 21:20 behind with less than two minutes to play. But instead of shooting an extra point and going into overtime, they trotted back to grab a two-point conversion and suddenly the weight of a game was on a young quarterback’s shoulders.

“I’m only a sophomore, so they tell me, ‘Don’t pressure yourself,'” Esparza said. “This game is all on me. So of course we either win or we don’t.”

He fell back and there was senior Cameron Brandt – a defensive end – wide open in the end zone. He made the catch, and another Friday night miracle was accomplished.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-11-04/sierra-canyon-rallies-to-defeat-warren-in-a-thriller Sierra Canyon rallies to defeat Warren in a thriller

Emma Bowman

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