A clutch third-quarter field goal. A receiver who had been thrown to for the first time all season the week before coming up big. A running back who had come up big most of the season coming up big again.
That all helped add up to a 38-35 win for the Hancock College football team over San Bernardino Valley College in the American Championship Bowl last Nov. 17.
Hancock capped a 10-1 season with its first bowl game win since 2011.
The Bulldogs' saga ranks No. 3 among the top Times sports stories of 2018, as selected by the Times sports staff.
The run-oriented Bulldogs finally got Pierre Moudourou involved in the offense when he caught some passes in Hancock's 55-14 win over Los Angeles Harbor in the regular season finale. That was the week before the American Championship Bowl that the Bulldogs hosted at Righetti High School.
Modourou caught two touchdown passes from Hancock quarterback Thomas Carr against the Wolverines, and the Bulldogs, up 28-7 at halftime and 38-14 with 1:21 left in the third quarter, hung on (barely) for the bowl win.
Santa Maria High School graduate Hector Gil-Garcia kicked the 29-yard field goal that put Hancock ahead 38-14 and gave the Bulldogs its winning points.
Hancock sophomore Ryheem Skinner, a Clinton, North Carolina native, was the game MVP. He ran for 130 yards and two scores. Skinner finished the regular season as the leading rusher in the Southern California Football Association's American Division.
The win put an end to past post-season frustration for Hancock coach Kris Dutra, the American Division's Coach of the Year who broke mentor Barney Eames' Hancock football career wins record when the Bulldogs won their 2018 season opener.
It also ended past post-season frustration for several of Dutra's players.
"Finally got one," said Hancock center R.J. Grice, a Lompoc High School graduate, afterward. Grice, Skinner and several other Bulldogs played for the 2017 team that lost 35-14 to Southwestern College in the American Championship Bowl that Hancock hosted at Santa Maria High School.
Skinner's Clinton High School team lost in the state divisional championship game when Skinner was a junior.
A big kickoff return set up an SBVC touchdown near the end of the third quarter. Hancock hung on after the Wolverines scored on two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
The dramatic SBVC rally finally fell short when the Wolverines, out of timeouts, touched the ball a yard too early on the onside kick after SBVC scored with less than two minutes left.
The drama continued. Some SBVC defenders clocked Carr on consecutive snaps as the Hancock quarterback was taking a knee. There was a post-game melee between the teams afterward, some spectators ran onto the field and it took several minutes for the antagonists to be separated.
The Wolverines, jeered off the field by some of the fans, skipped the post-game awards ceremony.
Hancock has been in the Pacific League for two seasons, and the Bulldogs have gone 5-0 each time. This year, Hancock's "closest," league game was a 49-24 win at Los Angeles Pierce.
Hancock missed a perfect season by two points. The Bulldogs lost 22-21 to Ventura College in their second game of the year.
After their bowl game win, the Bulldogs seemed to care not at all about missing a perfect season by two points.