Interception, Field Goal Send Cougars Back to State

Nick Johnson, Staff Writer

In a David vs. Goliath matchup, the Division 3 Cougars defeated the Division 1 Milpitas Trojans in a Friday night thriller. The 27-24 win sends Campolindo back to the state title game for a 3rd time.

With just over a minute left in the 4th quarter of Friday’s Norcal Championship game, and the score tied at 24, senior cornerback Dante Deluca reached up, intercepted a pass from Milpitas quarterback Oliver Svirsky, and returned the ball 54 yards, setting up the game winning field goal.

“I’m just so shocked right now. It was a hell of a game. He was a hell of a quarterback,” said Deluca after the game. “He threw the ball up and I was just at the perfect place at the right time, just snagged it and ran as far as I could. It’s pretty indescribable. The excitement is unreal. I just ran like hell. I ran as fast as I could towards the end zone.”

“I was hoping he would do exactly what we taught him to do, which is tuck the ball and try to score,” said his defensive backs coach Jason Walker.

Although, seemingly over matched on paper, Campo managed to contain Milpitas’s big 3, the 5 foot 10 305 pound Tafua Mataele, the 6 foot 7 380 pound Christian Haananga and the 6 foot 8, 300 pound freshman Justin Scrempos. Campo never trailed in the game by more than 7 points.

“You saw the size differential and how tough it was. To try and establish a running game was difficult and a young quarterback with a lot of pressure thrown on him, the whole game was just trying to find some spot of balance, and I don’t know if we ever did,” said head coach Kevin Macy.

Campolindo scored first on a touchdown pass from Jacob Westphal to Madison Young, but shortly thereafter, Milpitas responded with a touchdown of their own. The game went to halftime with the score knotted at 14.

Milpitas pushed far into Campolindo territory on their first drive of the second half, but the Cougar defense tightened when it mattered, holding the Trojans to a field goal to put them ahead by 3.

Campolindo tried a trick play on their next possession. Westphal threw a screen to sophomore John Torchio who then heaved the ball to Madison Young. Young ran into the endzone for a 59 yard touchdown.

“We had to gamble. It was just a night of gambling. We had to take some chances,” said Macy.

A forced fumble by Campolindo set up a Matt Blair field goal, but on the Trojans’ next possession, Svirsky threw an 80 yard pass to Devin Crummie to tie up the game.

Turnovers were the real story of the game. Campolindo fumbled 3 times and one of those, with the Cougars driving and the score tied a 24 late in the 4th, set up Deluca’s interception.

Milpitas got the ball back after the Blair field goal with 23 seconds left. They tried 3 hail Marys but each fell incomplete. When the clock hit zero, Campo fans known as the “Red Sea” stormed the field.

“That game was just the epitomy of rockin’,  rollin’ and momentum swinging. I can’t even put it into words. It’s all about heart. I think we were playing for something greater than they were. It was just a time where we banded together for each other,” said senior Sterling Strother.

The Cougars travel to Orange County for the state title game against the La Mirada Matadores on Saturday, December 19.