The Mission High Bears beat the Galileo High Lions 47-28 Thursday night to clinch a spot in the Turkey Day Championship at Kezar Stadium. The Bears will play the Lincoln Mustangs at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Mission was first to score in the contest, and scored again on an almost an untouched 15-yard run from running back Matthew Yee to make the score 14-0 with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter.
A minute later, the Lions’ Ronzel Fox ran for a 70-yard touchdown. The Lions got the ball back quickly with a surprise on-side kick and drove the ball down the field to tie the game.
Throughout the game, Mission’s quarterback, Antoine Porter, displayed some fancy moves, juking and dodging to create opportunities with his running and throwing abilities. In the second quarter, Porter ran in for a 12-yard touchdown and also completed a 20-yard pass to running back Armani McFarland to put the Bears up 28-14 at the half.
Last year’s star for the Bears, Darius Grays, who now plays for Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, visited the team on the sidelines and during halftime.
“I’m loving it right now,” Grays said. “I have been missing everybody. I get to see everybody. There’s a big smile on my face.” Grays was injured this year at Lewis and Clark, and his team, after a 4-0 start, fell to a 4-5 record by the end of the season.
Grays had worked and planned ahead to attend the game. “I have been in the library the last three weeks, just so I [could] come home early for my Thanksgiving break,” he said. “Now, I’m so happy. It’s worth it.“
Grays said that the Bears’ head coach, Joe Albano, told his team to “lock it down in the second half.”
The Bears let a Lion out of the cage at the start of the third quarter when Galileo completed a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Nelson to Isaac Armstrong to tighten up the score. The Lions’ extra point was blocked by Demitrius Thibeaux to put the score at 28-20. The right tackle for the Bears, Mane Fale, said: “We knew about their jumbo formation. We let up points and there were points we shouldn’t have let up.”
After the Lions scored, the Bears were able to lock down the rest of the game, only allowing the Lions to score eight more points in the second half.
In the third quarter, a Bears’ drive down the field led to a touchdown by quarterback Porter, extending the lead to 35-20.
The Bears were able to contain the Lions with a strong defense. Porter, who was strategically brought up early in the game to play defensive line, said: “Today felt like a great game. We played great defense. That is something we really focused on, because our defense was lacking the last couple of weeks. So we practiced really hard and we got it right today.”
Porter also punts for the team. On a bad snap, he was able to break away and throw a complete pass to wide receiver Alex Tico for a 60-yard touchdown. Normally a punter will try to kick the ball on a bad punt, but with Porter’s feel for the game he was able to turn an ugly play into a touchdown. Albano said, “We have that relationship where I give him some freedom on the field; he deserves it because he is such a spectacular player.”
“I ran the play thinking he was punting it,” Tico said, “but I looked back and Porter was passing so I went to my route and got a step on it and caught the ball and walked in.”
After Tico’s last touchdown, the Bears finished with a 47-28 victory.
“I feel lucky,” Tico said. “I feel blessed. It’s hard work. This is what we have been playing for the whole year: to make it to the championship.”
“It’s exciting going back to the championship,” Fale said. “It’s all I can ask for.”
The Bears will play the Mustangs on Thanksgiving Day at Kezar Stadium. Kick-off is set for 11 a.m; gates open at 9 a.m. The Bears lost to Lincoln earlier this season, 42-14.
The Bears are bracing for the final game against Lincoln. “It’s good to have a victory tonight,” said assistant coach Ross Steiner, “but we have a lot of work to do and to get ready for Lincoln; they are tough opponent.”
“They’re a good team,” Albano said. “And we can’t turn the ball over.”
“Lincoln comes ready to play on every play,” Porter said. “Last time we played them, we had trouble playing defense. We need to step up and do [it]. I’m really excited, not just because it’s Turkey Day, but it is another shot at them. This is like a payback game. We just got to come ready to play.”
“We just got to go hard in practice, just got to get ready for Lincoln,” Fale said. “It starts now. It starts today, from this moment on. Lincoln is on my mind. We know what they are going to do. We know that they are going to run, so we just got to do our assignments. We got to pick up the option play.”