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September 30, 2009 > American Surprises Tennyson

American Surprises Tennyson

By Gary van den Heuvel
Photos By Mike Heightchew

Just when it seems that high school football is an easy game to predict, that the outcome is a given, that's when you have a game like American at Tennyson.

The Tennyson Lancers had started their season very strong, with dominant wins over Mission San Jose (21-0) and Overfelt (40-27). American, after a 1-9 2008 season, had dropped their first 2 games by a cumulative score of 87-33.

So, when American came to Tennyson on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 26, hopes weren't high among American supporters that the Eagles would be able to turn their season around.

But, as they say, "That's why they play the game."

American played with desperation to avoid an 0-3 record, beating Tennyson 20-15 with a relentless running game and a bend-but-don't-break defense. Maybe they got lucky by catching Tennyson on a bad day, when it was just too hot to play, a day when the Lancers' weapons weren't enough to answer to the Eagles' frustrating, shut-down defense.

The Eagles scored on their first possession, ending an 11-play possession on the first play of the second quarter with a five-yard touchdown run by Antiwan Martinez.

The Lancers, who had been constantly frustrated by the American defense, got their first big break when cornerback Donte Cullins recovered an Eagle fumble at the American 38-yard-line with under a minute left. A 32-yard pass reception from Lorenzo McHenry by quarterback Abed Nekrawash put the ball at the American nine. Following a sack and a spike by Nekrawash, Tennyson kicker Carlos Padilla nailed a 37-yard field goal as the half expired.

Tennyson took the lead on their first possession of the second half following a 35-yard punt return by T.J. Ner to the Eagle 33 yard-line. A pass-interference flag three plays later advanced the ball to the 15, and two plays later, Ner bounced off tacklers and scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Lancers. The extra point attempt was kicked wide left and Tennyson's lead was 9-7.

The Lancers' lead was short-lived, as American drove the ball down to the Tennyson eight on six consecutive run plays by Rodney Johnson, highlighted by a 29-yard dash on the fifth play of the drive. The Eagles reclaimed the lead on an eight-yard TD reception by Martinez - his second touchdown of the game - from Nekrawash. A 2-point conversion attempt by the Eagles failed, and late in the third quarter, American led 13-9, to the dismay of the overheated Tennyson crowd, who had expected an easy Lancer win against an overmatched opponent.

American's sack of Tennyson QB Kyle Johnson and fumble recovery at the Lancer 19 - when Johnson may very well have been in the grasp - gave the Eagles possession of the ball inside the Lancer red zone. Six plays later, Shawn Wong scored the clinching touchdown from three yards out with 9:22 left in the game.

Tennyson kept their hopes alive with a 12-play drive which started with four minutes left, ending with a touchdown pass out of the shotgun formation by Johnson to Michael Head from 16 yards out. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Tennyson behind by five.

The Lancers' final attempt was an onside kick which didn't pan out. Four plays later, American's successful conversion of a fourth down from inside Tennyson's 40 ended the suspense, and moments later the Eagles walked off the field with what could justifiably be called an upset win.

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