Sweetwater running back Raven Middleton, whose pass resulted in the only touchdown of the game, looks for a hole against Monte Vista.
The Division IV football championship was a rematch of a game earlier this season in which Monte Vista beat Sweetwater without either team completing a pass.
On Saturday at Mesa College, the teams combined to throw just one pass. It turned out to be the biggest play of the game.
Sweetwater defeated Monte Vista 7-0 when running back Raven Middleton threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior wingback Antonio Garcia on a trick play on third-and-short late in the fourth quarter to deliver Sweetwater its first championship in 29 years.
“We had set that play up all week and kind of knew we were going to do it,” Sweetwater coach Brian Hay said. “It’s a gutsy call, but it was the right call at the right time.”
Seven points is the fewest for any football championship game listed in the San Diego Section record book.
Going into the final quarter, Sweetwater (9-4) and Monte Vista (7-6) had struggled to find any sort of success with their potent running games.
But on Sweetwater’s winning drive, an unlikely hero stepped up for the Red Devils — Middleton. The junior had made his mark on the game defensively, helping to shut out a Monte Vista offense that had scored 34 points in the teams’ first meeting.
Offensively though, Middleton had just 13 yards rushing until the Red Devils’ final two drives. On the touchdown drive, Middleton converted a third-and-long with a 20-yard run. Later in the drive he picked up a first down with a 3-yard run on third-and-2.
On third-and-inches at the 15, Middleton got the ball again, but instead of trying to rumble for another first down he lobbed the game’s only pass to the end zone. Garcia — Sweetwater’s best runner who had been bottled up all game — hauled in the pass with a defender closing in on him. It was the only score the Red Devils would need.
“My coach put his faith in me, and I didn’t want to disappoint him,” Middleton said. “But the thing was, I knew one was going to bust eventually and we were going to find a way to score.”
Following Sweetwater’s touchdown, Monte Vista turned the ball over on the Monarchs’ third lost fumble of the night. The Red Devils converted one first down to ice the game.
Sweetwater lost two fumbles and missed a 38-yard field goal attempt. But those mistakes were forgotten when Garcia caught Middleton’s winning touchdown pass.
“It’s the best feeling of my life,” Garcia said. “This is the best day of my life.”