Santa Fe Christian quarterback Hunter Vaccaro eludes Rio Hondo defenders to score a touchdown.
With the passing game nonexistent, Santa Fe Christian quarterback Hunter Vaccaro used his legs to power the Eagles to a 30-28 win over Arcadia Rio Hondo on Friday in the Division IV Southern California Regional championship at Del Norte High.
The victory puts Santa Fe Christian (11-3) into next Friday’s Division IV State Bowl Championship against Central Catholic at 4 p.m. at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Vaccaro didn’t complete any of his four passes and was intercepted twice.
But he rushed 12 times for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
And it was his 8-yard run in the game’s dying seconds that gave the Eagles a first down and allowed them to kill the clock.
“I’m nothing without the guys up front,” Vaccaro said. “Plus, we have so many weapons in our offense.
“Rio Hondo Prep is really good, but they had six guys tackling our fullback (Tony Miro) almost every down. That opened lanes for me.
“Last week, our section title was for us, the team. This is for everyone else, our parents, fans and supporters.”
Miro finished with 18 carries for 81 yards.
The teams combined for 35 points at the half with Rio Hondo leading 21-14 at the break.
The Kares (12-2) jumped to a 14-0, driving 75 yards on 10 plays on their second series with Ty Loomis going the last five yards.
Hunter Vaccaro returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards to the Rio Hondo 33, but was intercepted on SFC’s second play by Jake Holguin.
The Kares quickly turned that into a touchdown with Holguin hauling in a 59-yard pass from quarterback Colby Rivera.
Santa Fe Christian countered when it took over on its 46 after a failed onside kick attempt by Rio Hondo.
Three plays later, SFC was in the end zone with Hunter Vaccaro speeding 55 yards to the score.
Santa Fe Christian couldn’t take advantage of a 19-yard Rio Hondo punt when Hunter Vaccaro was intercepted by Ryan Wiley.
But the Kares turned the ball right back over to the Eagles when Connor Vaccaro recovered a fumble, setting the Eagles up at the Rio Hondo 48.
Jerry Harper had a 21-yard run and Hunter Vaccaro went the final 18 yards to tie the game at 14 with 53 seconds left in the half.
That was just enough time for the Kares to go 80 yards, aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on an incompletion that would have forced Rio Hondo to punt.
On the final play of the half, Rivera, threw a backward pass to Holguin, who lofted a 50-50 ball into the end zone where Christian Torrico caught the batted ball for the score.
Santa Fe Christian got a 32-yard field goal from Jake Bailey to open the second half and took the led when Jerry Harper swept in from three yards out late in the third quarter.
Rio Hondo bounced back and took the lead with 5:44 to play on a 1-yard run by Rivera.
Faced with what could be their last drive of the season, the Eagles went 52 yards on six plays with Harper going the final yard for the TD with 2:20 to play.
The key play in the drive was Vaccaro’s 37-yard run.
“Like I said, Hunter’s our Johnny Football,” said SFC coach Nick Ruscetta. “There isn’t anything the young man can’t do.”
Rio Hondo had one last shot, but Rivera’s pass with 1:15 to play was batted in the air by Bailey and intercepted by Slater Howe.
“Awesome, just awesome,” Howe said when asked to describe the moment."