MERCED — It helps to have a little luck on your side.
The Merced High football team escaped with a 40-39 win when Clovis West kicker Nicolas Marrone's kick was wide left on an extra-point attempt with no time left on the clock.
The Bears players exploded off their sideline as they celebrated a thrilling win to open their season Friday night in front of a large crowd at Veterans Stadium.
"I was exhausted," Bears head coach Rob Scheidt said. "I always say a prayer in those situations. I didn't know if I could make it through an overtime."
Merced made the plays when it had to late in the game.
Travante Richard pinned the Clovis West offense at its own 4-yard line with a punt with 9 minutes and 25 seconds left in the game.
The Bears defense did its job and Merced took over possession of the ball at the Golden Eagles' 42-yard line.
The Bears quickly marched down and Kris Turner-Jackson scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give Merced a 40-33 lead with 1:26 left in the game.
Clovis West responded as quarterback Kordel Hoffman marched his team quickly down the field with a key 20-yard pass to Jordan Mendoza and a 24-yard strike to Tristan Edwards that set the Golden Eagles up at the Merced 7-yard line with just over 20 seconds left in the game.
Hoffman tried three straight fade passes into the left corner of the end zone. The third time was the charm as Andre Chachere hauled the touchdown catch to pull Clovis West within 40-39 as time expired.
Clovis West sent out Marrone for the tie. The Golden Eagles kicker was perfect on the day, making a 37-yard field goal and both of his extra point attempts.
Merced called a timeout to make Marrone think about it. His kick barely missed to the left.
It was a game that had a little of everything as both teams clearly looked like teams playing their first game of the season.
It was an up-and-down debut for Merced quarterback Tyrone Williams. On the bright side, the junior threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns. However, he only completed 13 of 30 passes and threw three interceptions.
"I think there's a level of game management there," Scheidt said. "My worry with any young quarterback is making the smart throw or the safe throw. When he does that we'll be really good. His arm and his ability and his understanding of the game is all there."
Momentum switched from sideline to sideline all game.
The Bears opened the second quarter with two quick touchdowns as linebacker Sam Scheidt scored on a 30-yard interception to give Merced a 7-3 lead.
Clovis West fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Williams quickly found Nick Camper for a 26-yard score with Camper doing most of the work. The senior receiver bounced off a tackler and then raced up the right sideline for the touchdown.
The Golden Eagles came right back as Hoffman ran in a touchdown from 1-yard out and Taylor Bustamonte, who has 138 rushing yards on 20 carries, scored on a 19-yard run to give Clovis West a 17-14 lead.
The two teams combined to score 33 points in the third quarter that saw the game tied 33-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.