MODESTO – Sean Perkins and the rest of the Beyer High seniors know the misery of an 0-10 season. Now they know how champions feel.
The Patriots completed the year-long cycle, from utter despair to pure joy, as they celebrated a 24-14 victory Friday night over Johansen. By night’s end, the Patriots annexed an outright Western Athletic Conference title, and they mixed cheers with tears on the floor of Dan Gonsalves Stadium.
“Oh, man, it feels good,” said Perkins, a two-way star who rushed for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion that all but closed out the win with 5:20 left. “I was heartbroken (last year), but I knew I had a second chance.”
Beyer, Johansen and Los Banos entered the regular season’s final week in a three-way tie for first place. The Beyer win, combined with Los Banos’ 42-24 loss to Pacheco, resulted in the Patriots’ WAC title and a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth that did not seem possible a year ago.
“I’m honored to be in the playoffs,” Perkins exclaimed after he rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries. “Our team earned it.”
The game was billed as “Cinderella vs. Cinderella:” Beyer’s rags-to-riches story vs.Johansen, whose football team grew from virtually nothing to significance under fourth-year coach Scott Sacuskie. Predictably, these former affiliates of the Modesto Metro Conference exchanged emotional blows on a chilly night.
Beyer (7-3, 6-1) built a quick 16-0 lead on the strength of a change of pace by first-year head coach Greg Bockman. He considered the idea while he watched film during the wee small hours a week ago: Move sophomore Darius Murphy to quarterback.
The 6-foot-1 Murphy, sleek and fleet, scored a team-leading 12 touchdowns as a wide receiver and running back entering the game. Thus, Bockman put the season’s most important game in the hands of his most dangerous weapon.
“He was our most dynamic player,” Bockman said. “It was the right time.”
Murphy took the snaps from the shotgun formation, and the Johansen defense was out-matched. His first touch resulted in a 61-yard romp to the end zone that was erased by a holding penalty. But five plays later, Murphy made it count with a 55-yard sprint for Beyer’s first touchdown.
The Patriots marched toward their second touchdown when Murphy, on the final play of the first quarter, sprained an ankle after he retrieved a fumbled snap. He managed only one more play the rest of the game, but he already impacted the game in a big way.
It already had been an uncomfortable night for Johansen, the designated visiting team in its own house while Beyer held its Senior Night.The Vikings, anchored by 25 seniors, shook off the early setback and countered.
Jesse Arriola (15 carries, 76 yards), powered to his left 4 yards to close the deficit to 16-7 midway through the second quarter. After halftime, Johansen went 75 yards in 11 plays, capped by an 18-yard bullet over the middle from John Romero to Matthew Castaneda.
The Vikings, trailing only 16-14, sustained their momentum and were poised to take the lead early in the fourth period. They reached the Johansen 31 before the Beyer defense, the team’s forte all season, stopped the drive cold. Romero’s pass on 4th-and-12 was tipped by Jalen Munoz, and the Patriots stabilized.
Quarterback Ethan Phompong, a sophomore who replaced Murphy, revitalized Beyer by passing for the team’s only three completions. Soon, Perkins bulled into the end zone for the clinching points.
“I wanted the storybook ending. It does hurt,” Sacuskie said. “To be so close, you could taste it.”
The game mirrored the turbulent WAC season. Non-champions from the league seldom advance to the playoffs, and Johansen probably is out. Even Grace Davis, 8-2 after an easy win over Ceres, needs a nod from the committee.
Meanwhile, Beyer prepares for another game after a win it won’t soon forget.
“Our team motto is ‘All in,’” Bockman said. “And since February, these kids have just dedicated, to lift weights, to condition, to get better, to work on their skill. And this is the direct result of all that hard work.”
Johansen 0-7-7-0 –14
Beyer 8-8-0-8 – 24
B – Darius Murphy 45 run (Murphy run)
B – Sean Perkins 2 run (Anthony Baker run)
J -- Jesse Arriola 4 run (Emanuel Gomez Arismendi kick)
J – Matthew Castaneda 18 pass from John Romero (Gomez Arismendi kick)
B – Perkins 3 run (Perkins run)
Records – Johansen 7-3, 5-2 WAC; Beyer 7-3, 6-1 WAC
JV – Johansen, 13-12