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D’Jon Pittman has been a student at Cabrillo High School for a week-and-a-half, and he’s already scored the biggest touchdown in school history.
Trailing 24-20 at Lynwood with under 20 seconds to play on Thursday night, the Jags had the ball at their own 44 yard-line. Junior QB Luis Haro looked for his favorite target in Pittman, and the ninth grader made a play he’ll never forget.
Pittman leaped for the catch around the Lynwood 30, slipped by a defender and raced to the end zone for a game-winning 56-yard score as Cabrillo stunned the Knights, 26-24.
“In 20 years of coaching, I’ve been a part of some exciting games,” said Cabrillo head coach Shane Gonzales. “To be the head coach and to see our kids battle through a game like that, that was definitely a special one that I’m always gonna remember.”
Pittman finished the night with six catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and was at a loss for words after the win.
“I don’t even know, I’m speechless,” Pittman said. “I gotta give it up to my quarterback and my O-Line, they block and he threw the balls to me … It felt like a dream, I just caught it and kept running.”
It was a dream come true for a team that’s in the midst of a historic season. After missing the 2020 season, Cabrillo went just 1-8 a year ago. Now they’re 4-0 for what’s believed to be the first time in school history.
It’s remarkable that the Jags were even in a position to win Thursday’s game, given how things started. Lynwood jumped out to an 18-0 lead early in the second quarter after a second interception return for a touchdown.
In previous seasons, that may have spelled the end for Cabrillo, but not this year. The team’s ability to settle into the game and battle back showed how much resiliency and confidence this group has gained since last season.
“My hat’s off to the kids,” Gonzales said. “We hadn’t had a game like this where we battled adversity. Last year we got blown out pretty much every game. And I saw that look in their eyes, the look I saw last year when we fell behind, and I didn’t know how they were going to respond. I just kept being positive with them, telling them it’s going to go our way, we’re gonna respond, we just have to stay positive and believe. It happened exactly the way I told them it would at halftime.
“I’m still in shock, man.”
After facing the 18-0 hole, Cabrillo got their offense going with Bobo Jackson and the power running game, which set up the Haro to Pittman connection. Haro hit the freshman for 11 yards on a 3rd-and-5 situation in Knights territory, then went back to Pittman for a 25-yard TD toss. Pittman elevated for a great catch in double coverage, cutting the deficit to 18-6.
On the next drive, Jasiah Ceniceros came through with a huge special teams play, blocking a punt to give the ball back to the offense at the Lynwood 21. Three runs from Antonio Elam led to pay dirt as he punched in a one-yard score to pull the Jags within 18-14.
The Knights drove down and scored before halftime as QB Maximillian Archiaga hit Christian Reyes for a score to make it 24-14 Lynwood. It was the second TD of the night for Reyes, who also had a 71-yard return touchdown on an interception.
The Knights would never score again, however, as the Jags were locked in defensively in the second half. Cabrillo recovered a pair of fumbles in the third quarter to help keep Lynwood off the board–one by Luis Chavez and the other by Tristen Muk.
Cabrillo’s offense was slow to get started after halftime, but put together a 14-play drive that stretched into the fourth quarter. Haro would cap it off with a one-yard keeper on 4th & Goal to make it 24-20 with 7:32 left to play.
The Jags got the ball back with 2 minutes left, but were unable to pick up a first down. Yet still, they persisted. The Cabrillo defense forced a 3 & out using its two remaining timeouts, giving possession back to the offense with 28 seconds to play.
Haro missed Pittman on the first play of the drive, then went right back to him on the second snap. The freshman went up for a catch and was immediately blasted by safety Semaj Holmes, but somehow held on despite losing his helmet.
Holmes is a senior who had a pick-six in the first half and finished the night with 7 catches for 135 yards, but this night did not belong to him or Lynwood.
The freshman Pittman shrugged off the hit, but had to sit out a play after his helmet came off on the catch. Following an incompletion, he went back out on the field to make history, setting off a raucous celebration on the visiting sidelines with just 11 seconds left to play.
“We kept believing,” Pittman said. “We kept saying ‘It's not over yet. It's not over yet. It's not over until it's done.’ We kept pushing and pushing, and all the hard work paid off.”
Cabrillo will enter Moore League play undefeated, traveling to face Compton next Friday night. Lynwood falls to 3-1 and will host Mark Keppel next Thursday.