Santa Fe Christian QB Hunter Vaccaro (right) runs past Noah Gamboa of Francis Parker.
ESCONDIDO Anxious eyes watched from the sidelines in last year’s championship game.
Santa Fe Christian was in range for a game-tying field goal with seconds left.
The football was snapped, and the kicker nailed it. But the 41-yard attempt sailed wide left, sealing the Division V title for Christian.
“It was a tough one,” Santa Fe Christian coach Nick Ruscetta said. “Our guys didn’t want to go down that road again.”
Eagles quarterback Hunter Vaccaro ensured that.
The senior broke the plane three times, powering Santa Fe Christian past Francis Parker 31-15 on Friday to claim the San Diego Section Division V championship at Escondido High.
Vaccaro finished with 155 total yards for the top-seeded Eagles (10-3).
“There was no way we were going to walk off the field for a second time without a victory,” Vaccaro said. “We were going to finish tonight.”
Conor Keith helped spark the Santa Fe Christian ground game, rushing for 110 yards on 15 attempts. Tony Miro added 81 yards on 13 carries for the Eagles.
Gabe Harrington completed 17 of 30 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown for No. 2 Francis Parker (8-5), which knocked off defending Division V champion Christian in the semifinals last week in double overtime.
His teammate, junior running back Jesse Brookins, chipped in 78 rushing yards and a 6-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Parker managed 318 total yards while surrendering 390 to Santa Fe Christian.
“We couldn’t stop their run,” Parker coach John Morrison said. “They do what they do and they do it very well.”
Santa Fe Christian and Parker traded blows in the first quarter. Following a 2-yard TD run by Vacarro, Harrington hooked up with Hank Childs for a 29-yard scoring pass.
Parker had no answer for Vaccaro, who gashed them for two more touchdowns to extend Santa Fe Christian’s lead to 28-7 in the third quarter.
“It’s funny. I call Hunter the straw that stirs the drink,” Ruscetta said.
“He’s unbelievable. Having a kid like him, who is your best offensive player and possibly your best defensive player, makes my job so much easier. I’m super proud of him.”
Parker threatened late, but Vaccaro & Co. ran out the clock to capture their first section crown since 2006 when they defeated Mission Bay in the Division IV title game.
“Our kids never quit,” Morrison said.
“We’ve had three fourth-quarter comebacks this year. We tried to make it a game at the end. It’s no fun when you lose, especially in the championship. It’s going to take a while to get over this.”
For Vaccaro, the victory is a sweet ending to his high school football career.
“It’s never my performance,” he said. “It’s a team performance. I have 10 other guys blocking for me. I couldn’t do it without them. It’s a great finish for us.”"