There were a lot of big plays in the last 12:47 of this one.
Pioneer Valley made all of them.
As a result, Pioneer Valley still hasn't lost a football game against Santa Maria. Down by nine at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter, the Panthers scored the last 13 points and nipped the Saints 32-28 in the 12th edition of this crosstown rivalry. This one gave the sell out crowd more than its money's worth.
Emmanuel Alcantar rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He scored the winning touchdown when he zipped through a hole and scored from 25 yards out at the 1:59 mark of the fourth quarter. His 33-yard run in the first quarter put Pioneer Valley ahead 13-0.
With the Saints trying to rally after the last Alcantar touchdown, a penalty for a false start wiped out Blake Truhitte's 42-yard pass to Jonathan Ramos. Another five-yarder put the Saints back on the 10, and three straight incompletione, and then a quarterback sack, followed.
Pioneer Valley is now 3-1 on the year and 12-for-12 against Santa Maria. The Saints dropped to 2-3 on the season with their second straight loss to a crosstown rival. Righetti beat Santa Maria 35-13 last week.
The Saints, up 28-19 after a three-yard Frank Lopez run at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter, seemed all set to grab their first win against the Panthers. However, Pioneer Valley's defense, after being run ragged by Truhitte, stood firm and the Panthers scored the last 13 points to win it.
"We made a lot of adjustments at halftime," said Pioneer Valley linebacker Ivan Zepeda.
"We shut off the edge. That's all it was."
Truhitte passed for 224 yards, tossed two touchdown passes to Phillip Becerra and ran for 109 yards on the night, but the Saints had just two first downs after Lopez scored.
Becerra helped the Panthers, down 28-26, make a big third down stop, on Lopez for a one-yard loss. Alcantar scored on the third play after the Panthers took over on their own 46 after a short Truhitte punt.
Pioneer Valley quarterback Matt Garcia set the score up the play before. On second-and-10 Garcia, in the grasp of would-be tacklers, dumped the ball to Alcantar on the right side, and Alcantar ran to the Santa Maria 25.
It was Garcia's second improbable completion for a huge play in the game. Garcia shook off what looked like a sure sack late in the second half and delivered the ball to an open Nick Robledo. Robledo shook off several would-be tackles to put the Panthers back ahead, 19-14, in the second quarter.
Ramos had four receptions for 125 yards. His easiest catch was on defense. Garcia threw the ball right to him, and Ramos took it 35 yards for the last score of the first half as the Saints, thanked partly to Ramos' block of a PAT kick, led 21-19 at the half.
With the Panthers driving near the end of the first half, Garcia had to fall on the ball at the Santa Maria 28. With the Panthers still within standout kicker Edgar Zacarias' field goal range, Garcia took a sack on the next play and the Panthers, out of time outs, couldn't get the ball down for a field goal attempt.
The big plays Garcia made, though, turned out to be of far more consequence. He finished with 271 yards passing and threw for two scores.
His jump pass to Jonathan Salazar went for 12 yards and a score to bring the Panthers within 28-26 at the 2:15 mark of the third quarter.
There were several momentum swings in this one. Pioneer Valley scored the first 13 points, Santa Maria scored the next 14 and ultimately the Panthers scored the last 13.
Santa Maria's defense looked exhausted late in the game, while Pioneer Valley's seemed fairly fresh.
"We could see that their defense was gassed," Robledo said afterward.
Both teams did plenty to help themselves and plenty to hurt themselves.
A bad snap with the Saints in punt formation set up Robledo's five-yard score. A holding penalty nullified what had been a big first down for Santa Maria at the Pioneer Valley 34 with the Saints clinging to a 28-26 lead.
After a 74-yard Garcia-to-Salazar pass, a penalty cancelled Robledo's eight-yard touchdown pass that would have put the Panthers ahead. They went backward from there, and Zacarias missed a 42-yard field goal try.
The Panthers were hit with 12 accepted penalties for 105 yards. The Saints were flagged for 10 accepted penalties for 77 yards.
Pioneer Valley will play at Atascadero at 7 p.m. next Friday night. Santa Maria will play at Santa Ynez at the same time.