The Orcutt Academy football team's drive toward a berth in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game came up a bit short Saturday night.
Robert Garcia turned a short pass into a tackle-busting 46-yard touchdown play for the winning score with 1:48 left and unbeaten Canoga Park Faith Baptist edged Orcutt Academy 56-50 in the 8-man Division 1 semifinals at Pioneer Valley High School.
Faith Baptist is 12-0. Orcutt Academy finished 9-3. Faith Baptist will play Mojave for the title. Mojave routed previously unbeaten Ojai Villanova Prep 86-44 in the other semifinal Saturday.
The Spartans didn't fold after being down by 22 points early and took their first lead, 50-48, when quarterback Darin Miller scored from 35 yards out at the 11:04 mark of the fourth quarter.
Alex May set the score up when he intercepted an Andrew Rasmussen pass after it went off the receiver's hands. Miller scored on the next play.
"These guys didn't give up," said Orcutt coach Doug May.
"They fought hard tonight. They played for each other and fought for each other all year. Faith Baptist is a very good, very well-coached team. We've told our guys they have nothing to hang their heads about."
The Spartans had one last chance after Garcia went in for the touchdown and Christian Larson caught Rasmussen's two-point conversion pass for the last points, but they went three-and-out on their subsequent offensive series.
Orcutt fans were incensed that no foul was called after Orcutt receiver Bryce Coefield was on the turf for a few minutes after a huge hit on an incomplete pass on third down. Coefield was on the trainer's table after the game looking at his midsection.
A pass interference call nullified an Orcutt interception, and Faith Baptist ultimately scored on the drive. The Contenders did overcome several holding calls that wiped out good gains.
After Miller scored his team's last touchdown, he preserved Orcutt's lead, for the time being, when he stopped Larson at the Orcutt 1 on fourth-and-goal.
However, the Contenders stopped the Spartans when they pushed Miller out-of-bounds at the Faith Baptist 21, a yard short of the first down on fourth down. Garcia scored five plays later.
Miller ran for 185 yards and threw for 122.
Both kickers, Tyler Antonio for Faith Baptist and Jared Sutton for Orcutt Academy, regularly kicked the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, forcing the offenses to start at their own 15.
In the first half , Orcutt Academy twice pulled within seven points after Faith Baptist went on scoring runs.
The Contenders led 36-29 at halftime.
Faith Baptist racked up the first 22 points after Andrew Rasmussen intercepted Orcutt Academy quarterback Darin Miller on the first possession of the game.
After the interception, Andrew Rasmussen threw touchdown passes of 46 yards to Grant Rasmussen, 56 yards to Robert Garcia and 42 yards to Christopher Larson.
Miller got the Spartans on the board with a 56-yard, tackle-busting run for a score. He scored on a three-yard run later in the quarter.
Andrew Rasmussen scored from three yards out and Garcia ran in from the seven for the first scores of the second quarter.
Aiden Heller responded for the Spartans by grabbing a tipped Miller pass and running in for a 67 yard scoring play. Miller scored on a one yard sneak after a Faith Baptist turnover.