The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
If someone yells “fire” in a crowded theater and someone gets hurt, it’s a crime.
But sometimes if it happens after a bad snap on an extra point, it turns into an up-for-grabs two-point conversion, and that kind of fortune was the difference for College of San Mateo in its 22-13 victory Saturday afternoon against Laney College of Oakland.
Six fumbles (four lost), key drops and ill-timed penalties plagued CSM, but the Bulldogs managed to hang on to the two-possession lead that came out of desperation after defensive back Shai Koboyashi returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
“I could see it in their faces out there,” CSM coach Bret Pollack said. “They knew it. They understood that they got away with one.”
“It was exciting, but we all know today was a sloppy game,” CSM linebacker Tevita Lataimua said. “A win is a win, but we’re very, very lucky to have this.”
CSM (1-0) trailed after the first quarter but came up with the big play courtesy of wide receiver Maurice Williams, who also had two drops in the first half. With 12:16 left in the second quarter, Williams caught his first pass since the 2010 CIF Div. I state title game while at Palo Alto High. The 6-foot, 180-pound speedster raced 63 yards to the end zone to make it 7-6.
“This is my first game in two years,” Williams said. “I dropped a pass before it and I had to refocus. No. 3, John Willis, gave me another chance, so that was great. I just wanted to get that touchdown, but I also have to catch that ball before.”
The drops combined with inaccuracy resulted in a 5-of-17 passing performance from Willis, who threw for 153 yards.
“It’s exactly as he practiced — inconsistently,” Pollack said. “So I’m glad that’s the message to these guys. … When you’re not sharp in practice and you’re not sharp executing, it’s not going to change on Saturday.”
Three of the fumbles were lost in Laney territory, squandering scoring chances. But the defense provided the necessary cushion when Koboyashi jumped a slant pass moments after another interception was negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty.
When the snap on the ensuing extra-point attempt slipped through the fingers of the holder, kicker Austin Pacheco had the presence of mind to scramble to the right and from the 30-yard line heaved the football into the end zone for fullback Alex Bravo, a Serra-San Mateo product who hauled in the pass for the 15-6 lead.
“You pretty much have to know where your teammates are going to be,” Pacheco said. “We practice bad snaps and stuff in practice, and we had a play for it.”
“It was a bad snap and he reacted well,” Pollack said. “And that turned out to be a big thing. It could have changed the whole game.”
Laney crawled back into the game with a 12-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and got a second chance when CSM lost a fumble 10 yards from paydirt with 10:07 left. But the defense, which came away with a big goal line stand in the third quarter, forced a three-and-out that gave the offense a chance to ice the game with 46 seconds left as Jerrel Brown busted a 13-yard touchdown run.
“It’s just getting over that first hump,” Williams said. “That’s the hardest thing of anything. But we just have to keep rolling. We have ‘Tell the Truth’ Monday and we’re going to look at this film and learn from this.”
At least according to their coach, the lesson is clear.
“They know they’re not as good as they think they are,” Pollack said.