ATWATER — Atwater senior Logan Gonzalves held the Bloss Bowl trophy high as his teammates cheered.
Fellow senior JoJo Ochoa took a running leap on top of the pile and kissed the trophy.
The Falcons brought the trophy home and likely earned a playoff spot in the process as they came from behind to beat Buhach Colony 29-26 on Friday night in the eighth Bloss Bowl in front of a crowd of about 3,500 in the newly-named Dave Honey Stadium.
"What an exciting game," said Ochoa, who rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns. "We get to put our pads on one more game. This means a lot of every senior out here."
The Falcons (6-4 overall, 3-2 Central California Conference) relied heavily on Ochoa and the 5-foot-10, 225-pound fullback was more than happy to carry the load.
Ochoa bulldozed his way through holes forcing a gang of Thunder players to bring him down.
When Atwater went away from their power they turned to the speedy Jessie Molina, who finished with 135 yards on 12 carries.
"Getting the ball felt good," Ochoa said. "I haven't got the ball a lot this year. I was glad the coaches put this game in my hands. I was able to carry the team and I'm ready to do it again."
The Falcons found themselves in an early hole as Buhach Colony (4-6, 2-3) hit Atwater with a couple big plays early as Aundre Sherman hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Darin Dupont and Justin Stefani broke free for a 64-yard touchdown run.
Quintin Levesque's 14-yard touchdown run gave Buhach Colony a 19-7 lead with 2:57 left in the first half.
However, the game turned late in the second quarter.
With Buhach Colony pinned deep at its own 8-yard line with 40 seconds left, the Thunder didn't opt to kneel down to run the clock out and take a two-score lead into the half.
"Nope," Thunder head coach Kevin Swartwood said. "We were going to take a shot on the next play."
Instead, Stefani had the ball stripped and Atwater linebacker Scotty Clements pounced on it with 33 seconds left in the half.
On the next play, Ochoa scored on a 10-yard run to pull the Falcons within 19-14.
"That was big," Atwater head coach Bob Valladao said. "We're hoping for a turnover or something to get us back in the game. That was the break we needed."
The Falcons won the field position battle in the second half as punter Tony Romo twice pinned the Thunder inside their own 10-yard line in the third quarter. The second time resulted in a short punt by Buhach Colony that set up the Atwater offense at the Thunder 39-yard line.
Four plays later, quarterback Nathan Duran kept the ball on an option play and scored around the right side from 11 yards out. Duran's pass to Victor Tiscareno on the two-point conversion gave the Falcons a 22-19 lead with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
Molina set up the Falcons score on their next possession with a 62-yard run. Duran hooked up with Tiscareno for a 5-yard touchdown pass on the next play to stretch the lead to 29-19 with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
The Thunder answered back on their next play with Dupont finding Rafael Sosa for a 76-yard catch and run that pulled BC within 29-26 with 10:27 left.
That was as close as the Thunder would get.
Buhach Colony turned the ball over on downs at the Atwater 36-yard line with 5:41 left in the game. The Thunder had one final shot at their own 15-yard line with 1:46 left, but Dupont's pass was deflected up in the air and fell into the hands of Gonzalves for an interception.
The loss ended the Thunder's hope of making the playoffs.
"I feel bad for the kids," Swartwood said. "This group played the toughest schedule in the history of our school because of past success, and they did a good job."
Meanwhile, Atwater will find out if its in the playoffs.
"This win means a lot to these guys," Valladao said. "I'm proud of the way we played."