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Sultana escapes with homecoming win
HESPERIA • For the second straight week the Sultana football team found itself in need of a fourth quarter rally to fend off a tough nonleague opponent.
And for the second straight week, the Sultans got what they needed.
Stephan Sanford turned a screen pass into a game-winning 66-yard touchdown reception with just over two and a half minutes remaining, and Sultana snuck by Barstow 30-24 on homecoming night at Jay Reed Field.
“I knew it was gonna be a tough game, it always is between us an Barstow,” Sultana head coach Blake Robbins said.
Last week, Sultana (4-1) scored 20 points in the fourth quarter of a comeback win over Victor Valley.
“I can’t take this anymore, every week we have these crazy games,” said Sultana senior quarterback Andrew Robbins, who had four total touchdowns. “But you have to love it. That’s why you love football, winning games like that.”
Fireworks flew from the stands at halftime, and they flew, figuratively, in the game’s final 15 minutes on the field as well.
The Sultans had a 17-10 halftime lead, but the Aztecs tied it up late in the third quarter on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tracy Venable to wide receiver Ahmon Jones, the team’s first touchdown pass of the year.
It was a back and forth game from there during a tense final quarter. Robbins busted out a 30-yard run and followed that with a 3-yard run to give the Sultans the lead back, but the Aztecs tied it back up with just under three minutes remaining on a 4-yard touchdown run by James Noble. The scoring drive was enabled by two personal foul penalties on Sultana, and the Aztecs converted a third-and-19 on the drive as well.
Two plays after Noble’s tying score, Robbins fired a screen pass to his right, where Sanford was waiting. The speedy junior cut back into the middle of the field, found a seam, and ran nearly untouched to the end zone for what turned out to be the final score.
“That was just all my line, I had nothing to do with it,” Sanford said. “They were just all in the right position. That game was like Madden. It was very stressful, but I knew this team would come together.”
Barstow had one more drive in them and got down to the Sultana 44, but Chris Gooding picked off a Venable pass on third down, and the Sultans ran out the clock from there.
“I honestly think it’s just that we refuse to lose,” Andrew Robbins said. “It gets shaky at times, but I’ve never had a team that shows more heart than this team.”
Neither team scored in the opening quarter, but the game got a bit crazy from there. There were five lead changes and three tie scores over the last three quarters.
Barstow was left wondering what might have been. The Aztecs missed a field goal early and also had a long touchdown pass nullified when they were penalized for having an ineligible receiver downfield.
“It’s frustrating as a coach because we didn’t execute like we were supposed to,” Barstow head coach Mike Esposito said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. I thought we had them there.”
Venable and Noble were the driving forces behind the Aztecs upset bid. Noble amassed 189 yards rushing and receiving with a touchdown, while Venable rushed for 75 yards and a score and passed for 68 yards and touchdown as well.
Robbins passed for 179 yards, ran for 64, and had four touchdowns — two through the air and two on the ground. Salvador Garcia ran for 178 yards for Sultana, while Gooding had a touchdown catch and a pick.
Barstow 0 10 7 7 — 24
Sultana 0 17 0 13 — 30
B — Venable 8 run (Hamdan kick)
S — Robbins 1 run (Perez kick)
B — Hamdan 26 FG
S — Gooding 69 pass from Robbins (Perez kick)
S — Perez 23 FG
B — Jones 33 pass from Venable (Hamdan kick)
S — Robbins 3 run (Perez kick)
B — Noble 4 run (Hamdan kick)
S — Sanford 66 pass from Robbins (kick failed)
Kyle Glaser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (760) 951-6274.