Late touchdown pass lifts Fresno-Central to 36-32 win, ends Frontier's perfect season in D-I quarterfinals

Nov. 10—In a game where no lead was safe, Frontier left just a little too much time on the clock.

The host Titans scored the go-ahead score on a dramatic fourth-down play inside the 5-yard line with just 1:14 to play.

That turned out to be more than enough time for visiting Fresno-Central.

Following two incomplete passes to open the drive, the Grizzlies moved the ball 65 yards on three plays, capped by the game-winner, an 18-yard touchdown pass with just 11 seconds left that lifted No. 7 Central to a 36-32 victory to end Frontier's unbeaten season and eliminate the Titans in the Central Section Division I quarterfinals.

"Sooner or later we'll reflect on the whole season," said Frontier coach Chris Bandy, whose team captured its first league title since 2012 and posted a 10-0 regular season for the first time in program history. "But tonight it obviously hurts because we played well ... they played well. It's two good football teams going at it like it should be in Division I football. That's where we wanted to be all year, and we came and made a play at the end, and they made one more, so ..."

The Grizzlies (9-3) advance to play at No. 3 Liberty in next Friday's D-I semifinals. The Patriots, the defending CIF State 1-A champions, edged No. 6 Clovis, 33-30 at home on Thursday.

"That's the way it happens in football," said Bandy of the loss in the final seconds. "But I'll tell you what, being in this environment and having our kids be able to work this hard to get to the D-I level, I'm just really proud of them and how we played tonight."

Frontier (10-1), who defeated Liberty last month to snap the Patriots' 26-game league winning streak, was seconds away from a rematch in the D-I semifinals.

The Titans rallied from an early 15-3 deficit and took their first lead at 25-22 on a 19-yard scoring pass from Malakhi Statler to Nsongbeh Ginyui with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.

The touchdown accounted for the only points in the quarter, and when Frontier's Dante Moreci intercepted a pass on Central's next possession with 10:20 to play, the Titans hoped to chew up some clock on the ensuing drive.

But the Grizzlies forced a three-and-out, setting the stage for a flurry of points by both teams who combined for three touchdowns in the final 5 minutes.

Central quarterback David Marquez, who finished 16 for 29 passing for 334 yards and five touchdowns, connected with Brandon Smith for a 6-yard touchdown to give the Grizzlies a 29-25 lead with 4:57 left.

Frontier countered with its longest drive of the night, moving the ball 68 yards on 12 plays, with Statler rolling to his right and finding Kobie Watson in stride in the back corner of the end zone with just 1:14 left on an all-or-nothing fourth-and goal from the four, giving the Titans a 32-29 lead.