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Chowchilla seeing red

CHOWCHILLA -- Rob Diepersloot and John Henson have probably watched the play a hundred times since the 2007 football season ended.

It's the last tape in a bundle of 12 -- the one marked: "Chowchilla vs. Taft, Nov. 23."

Typically, the tape is queued up to Chowchilla's last possession of the season-ending 14-7 loss.

"It was our next-to-last play," Henson said, "and I called a rollout play for Rob."

Diepersloot sold the play-action fake and rolled out to his right. For a half-second, he thought about running for the first down.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, he targeted receiver Fred Gaines running free and clear in the secondary.

Diepersloot stopped, planted his feet and rifled a pass into Gaines at the 10.

Gaines juked two defenders and trotted into the end zone with the game-tying score.

Or so it seemed.

A yellow hankie near the line of scrimmage halted the celebration.

The officials ruled Diepersloot had stepped past the line of scrimmage when he released the ball, making his touchdown throw an illegal forward pass.

Say what?

"When I heard that call, I was totally surprised," Diepersloot said. "I had no idea I was over the line."

Chowchilla was in shock.

Its season came to an end on the next play, spoiling a bid for four straight Valley championship game appearances.

As for Taft, well...

Taft went onto handle Corcoran in the final, 28-14.

A small part of Henson feels like that title belongs in his trophy case -- though he won't dispute the call.

"We were disappointed last year," the Chowchilla coach said. "The Dutch takes one step over the line of scrimmage against Taft -- and that one step is what separated us from playing for a championship for the fourth straight year.

"We've thought long and hard about that game, that play and that foot. It's been a great motivator for the guys."

Motivation may be all Chowchilla (8-4) needs this year. Clearly, talent and experience won't be much of an issue for the boys in red.

Henson welcomes back most of his chief playmakers, including all three running backs.

Kyle Espinola, David DeJager and Gaines will provide most of the fireworks in Chowchilla's Double Wing offense.

Espinola led the team in rushing yards (814) and touchdowns (14), while Gaines and DeJager combined for over 1,000 total yards and 14 scores.

"It was tough. It was the first time we haven't reached the Valley championship in a long time," DeJager said. "I think it's made all the seniors hungrier to win.

"We have most of our weapons coming back, including our quarterback."

Which, Henson says, is a step in the right direction -- no pun intended.

"They remember," Henson added. "They remember how everything ended so abruptly last year -- short of our dreams. They're ready to take it over the top."