Sure, the aftermath of seeing its bid for a perfect season come to an end was hard to endure. But it didn't take this Patterson High football team long to put what it had done in perspective.
Perfection is exceedingly rare, whether for a baseball pitcher, a pearl or a prep football team. The Tigers (9-1 overall) finished the Western Athletic Conference campaign at 5-1, following the deepest unbeaten run in program history.
The Central Catholic High Raiders rallied for an enormous victory on Friday, Nov. 8, knocking off the previously undefeated Patterson Tigers 17-13, to claim an undisputed league title.
"Our kids fight and they don't give up," Marchy said following the loss. "We wanted this one pretty bad, and it hurts, but it's a new season starting next week with playoffs. We'll keep moving forward."
If Friday's rivalry took on even more relevance for players this season, it's because it's the final time the two schools will square off as conference adversaries.
Until the Raiders' second-half surge, the Tigers seemed headed for their 10th straight win and their first league championship since 2010, thanks to their prolific, and often indefensible, passing attack.
But Patterson's dreams of chronicling the first unblemished season in school history ended Friday when Matt Ringer finished off a 13-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, providing the necessary cushion for Central Catholic in a come-from-behind triumph over the visitors.
For Patterson's boisterous and well-traveled fans, black was the new crimson.
With less than a week's notice, a crowd of hundreds arrived in black at Patton Stadium, in an attempt to create an intimidating atmosphere and build camaraderie.
It cast a fresh, eerie and somewhat menacing backdrop to Patterson's first-half dominance of Central Catholic (9-1, 6-0).
Patterson deferred to begin the contest and in typical fashion, Central Catholic devoured nearly 8 minutes off the clock on its opening drive, plodding 56 yards on 17 plays. Kicker Kenny Smart capped it with a 22-yard field goal to give the Raiders an early 3-0 lead.
Central Catholic strung together a late first-quarter drive that bled into the second, and threatened to bolster its advantage after advancing to the Patterson 34-yard line.
With 8:35 left in the second period, Ringer took a pitch from quarterback Hunter Pentlansky in what appeared to be a sweep around right end. But Ringer eased up and while under pressure from Patterson pass rushers, hurried his throw for a teammate. Central Catholic's receiver got tangled up with a couple of Tiger defenders, however, leaving Damarrio Hammonds in position to make an easy interception at the 4-yard line.
On the ensuing possession, Patterson quarterback Damien Paulo connected with receiver Brandon Williams for a 37-yard grab that set up a 1st-and-10 situation at the Raider 18-yard line.
But the Tigers squandered the opportunity, and Paulo's next pass was intercepted near the goal line, handing the ball back to Central Catholic with 5:33 remaining before halftime.
It was Patterson's turn to make a big play on the ball.
Jordan Levu sent a charge through the visiting crowd and his teammates as he scooped up a Central Catholic fumble and sprinted 52 yards for a touchdown, and the Tigers had a 6-3 lead.
On the next series, the Tigers forced a three-and-out after stopping Central Catholic at its 25.
With 14 seconds left before the intermission, Avion Warmsley added another clip to his highlight reel, when he pulled down a 43-yard heave from Paulo over two Raiders defenders.
They jumped. He jumped higher. And the Tigers' stalwart wideout — playing with a heavy heart following the passing of a relative earlier this year — silenced the hometown bleachers just before the halftime whistle, making the score 13-3 on the final play of the opening half.
Then came the remarkable turnaround: 14 unanswered points for Central Catholic after the break.
Ringer's 41-yard scamper in the third quarter was a doozy, as he broke several tackles, cut back against the grain and raced toward the end zone. A touchdown-saving tackle from Hammonds stopped Ringer at the Patterson 8 with about 7 minutes left in the third.
Two plays later, the Raiders' Reggie Bland streaked down the middle of the field, and a 5-yard touchdown clipped the deficit to 13-10.
Ringer led Central Catholic on a clock-churning drive that covered 76 yards on 12 plays, which he capped with a 13-yarder, to put the Raiders ahead with 11:13 left in the fourth quarter.
After struggling somewhat against Central Catholic to find traction on offense in the second half, Patterson again turned to its defense to try and generate points.
With 7:06 left to play, Ringer lost a fumble when Patterson's Ruben Rosas ripped the ball free, and returned it just over 20 yards inside the Raiders' 40-yard line.
The Tigers could do nothing with the turnover and had to punt after a three-and-out.
Behind Bland and Ringer, the Raiders were able to successfully burn out the clock in the final six minutes, and the game ended with Pentlansky taking a knee at the Patterson 2.
"Our kids are getting hungrier and hungrier," Marchy said. "They're going to come ready to work on Monday. They want to get back on the field. They don't want to feel like this again."
No. 4-seed Patterson will host Oakdale High, a No. 13 seed, on Friday, Nov. 15, in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
Oakdale (6-4) finished with a 5-2 record in the Valley Oak League.
Game time is slated for 7 p.m. at Patterson Community Stadium, Ward and Salado avenues.
The JV Tigers watched a one-score lead slip away, and the Central Catholic Raiders showed their championship mettle down the stretch, beating Patterson 34-21 and preventing the local squad from completing its first undefeated campaign in school history.
The Raiders (6-0 WAC) secured a 10-0 regular season and a WAC crown with a victory over Patterson (9-1, 5-1) on Friday night at Patton Stadium.
When the game clock struck zero, Patterson coach Harley Parson stoically shook hands with his Central Catholic counterpart, and then retreated to the postgame huddle, where he thanked his assistants and players for a season on the gridiron, that was better than anybody could have expected.
"This team is only the second one from Patterson High to ever go 9-0. This was a real special year," Parson said. "Everybody gelled so well, and they worked hard. They climbed the ladder every single week, and they gave me everything they had."
Patterson's athletes took the small school from the West Side on an incredible ride, Parson added.
Central Catholic’s offense asserted itself early, breaking into the end zone on a 14-yard dash by a running back for a 7-0 lead with about five minutes elapsed of the first-quarter clock.
On the final play of the first quarter, Michael Lawson returned a Central Catholic punt 20 yards to the Raiders’ 20. Seven snaps later, Patterson would tie the game on a 1-yard touchdown push from Kevin Todd.
After forcing a turnover on downs with 3:02 left in the second quarter, Patterson took over on its own 25.
One play later, a Todd pass to Lawson went for 75 yards up the left sideline for a score, and Patterson led 14-7.
Central Catholic found the end zone again, when a rusher pounded in a 20-yard carry with 45 ticks remaining in the opening half.
The Raiders took their opening drive of the third quarter 51 yards on two plays, capping the series with a 40-yard TD scamper from a running back to regain the lead, 21-14.
Patterson fumbled deep in its own territory on its next possession, and Central Catholic went back to work.
With 5:12 remaining in the third, the Raiders found the end zone on a 2-yard carry, putting the home team up by two touchdowns.
Patterson opened the fourth quarter with an efficient possession.
This time, Todd connected with Nicholaus Priester for a 30-yard grab, before Jamal Broussard's 25-yard TD trot up the Central Catholic sideline pulled the Tigers within 28-21.
But a Central Catholic 3-yard touchdown plunge with 4:58 left to play put the finishing touches on the Raider victory.
"This team never looked beyond the next game. They were focused week-to-week on whoever we were going to play," Parson said. "I love them. I am very proud of what they have done overall."
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.