By MAVERICK FREEDLANDER
In a thriller of all thrillers, the UHS football team came closer to defeat than it has all season. A defensive showdown between Northwood High School (NHS) and UHS produced only 36 points total, a number that UHS has reached several times this season by themselves. The victory leaves UHS only one win away from guaranteeing a spot in the CIF playoffs.
Five of the first six drives in the game resulted in a three and out. On the fourth drive of the game, however, quarterback Neil Boudreau (Sr.) broke the ice with a 41 yard completion to Alex Pourdanesh (So.) to bring UHS within striking distance. A 29 yard run by Boudreau and an eight yard touchdown run by Matt Abellaneda (Sr.) allowed UHS to take an early lead.
On the extra point attempt, UHS was penalized for an illegal block, pushing the extra point back to become a 35 yard kick. Kicker Nick Loveland (Jr.) was calm and collected and kicked it through regardless.
On the 7th drive of the game, after a punt by Boudreau that pinned the NHS Timberwolves inside their own 10 yard line, UHS safety Anthony Medina (Jr.) intercepted a tipped pass from NHS quarterback Trevor Lawrence and returned it for a touchdown. The following extra point was blocked, UHS coming out with a 13-0 lead with 2:33 left in the first quarter.
The rest of the game was a different story, with NHS outscoring UHS 6-17. NHS was able to construct a long, methodical drive ending with a 4 yard touchdown with 5:35 left in the first half. Then, a miscommunication between Boudreau and UHS center Mohammed Hashemian (Sr.) resulted in a bad snap recovered by NHS at UHS’s 15 yard line. UHS had an impressive goal line stand, but on 3rd & goal from the one yard line, NHS quarterback Lawrence sneaked up the middle for a one yard touchdown. The following extra point gave NHS a 13-14 lead.
Only 9 points were scored for the following 24 minutes of play. After an 85 yard drive that lasted nearly 7 minutes to start off the second half, UHS settled for a 25 yard field goal by Loveland. After two failed drives, NHS drove deep into UHS territory, partially thanks to consecutive pass interference calls on UHS cornerback Darrius Outland (Jr.).
NHS attempted a 27 yard field goal with 8:04 left in the game, but the stout UHS defense came up big when needed, blocking the field goal attempt. With 6:50 left in the game, UHS had a 3rd and 7 on their own 28 yard line. Boudreau dropped back, surveyed his options and launched a 40 yard bomb towards tight end Michael Jung (Sr.) who had a clear path to the end zone. Jung reached out, but it hit off of the tips of his fingers, forcing UHS to punt to NHS with 6:21 left and a measly 16-14 lead.
After each team punted to the other once more, NHS had possession with 2:12 left in the game on their own 27 yard line, thanks to an impressive 60 yard punt by Boudreau. Boudreau led his team against NHS, rushing with 62 yards, making smart throws and pinning NHS deep in their own territory with great punts. NHS was conservative on the following drive, throwing curls and running out of bounds on almost every play.
With 40 seconds left in the game, NHS had a 4th and 5 at UHS’s 22 yard line. They opted to kick a 37 yard field goal, and the kick was good. The NHS crowd erupted, but little did they know the UHS squad was prepared to steal the spotlight. The Trojans had their backs pinned against the wall, starting their drive at their own 28 yard line. UHS’s offense, led by Boudreau, quickly pushed to their 43 yard line, and stopped the clock.
UHS still needed a miracle to get within range for Loveland. That miracle came in the form of an unbelievable 55 yard catch and run by UHS’s number one receiving weapon, tight end Michael Jung. This brought UHS to the 2 yard line with 8 seconds remaining in the game. This created a 17 yard field goal attempt. The sure-legged Loveland sent the ball through the uprights to seal the win for UHS.
The true test of this 2015-2016 UHS team will come on Friday at home against the Corona Del Mar Sea Kings, which are currently ranked first in the Pacific Coast League.