CARSON — Isaiah Burse resisted the urge to jump in and try to make every play Friday night, instead remaining patient and letting his teammates exploit a single-minded defense.
He was patient in the pocket, resisting the urge to sprint away from pressure. He generously handed the ball to his backs, rather than trying to pick up every yard himself.
Most of all, Burse didn't try to go yard-for-yard with Parker quarterback Deon Randall. The goal is to win the game on the scoreboard, Burse noted, rather than in the stat book.
His attitude, and a stirring goal-line stand, led Modesto Christian past Parker 44-40 in the CIF Small School Bowl.
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The Crusaders become the first Stanislaus District team to win a state football title, as well as the first Northern California team to enjoy a 15-0 season.
"Winning matters the most, and that's what Isaiah cares about," said Kevin Roya, one of MC's numerous weapons and Burse's cousin. "A quarterback's job is to win. That's what Isaiah does. He wins."
So, when Parker adjusted its defense in a bid to stop Burse, he frustrated the Lancers by spreading the ball around:
Roya piled up 201 yards total offense, rushing for 154 yards and catching two touchdown passes.
Keaton Engel, subbing for injured starter David Sjelin, had 163 yards and two TDs -- and set a state championship record with a 65-yard run.
Raymond Nelson caught four balls for a total of 42 yards and a TD, delivering a crucial play as the first half was ending.
But first, about that finish.
The Crusaders were clinging to a 44-40 lead with Parker picking up yardage in chunks late in the fourth quarter. But the MC defense made its last stand when it mattered most.
With fourth-and-goal at the 2, and 1:40 to play, the Crusaders swarmed Dalante Dunklin as he caught a pass and quickly tackled the receiver.
Moments later, the Crusaders picked up a first down to trigger a celebration on their sideline and in the stands.
"We tell our kids that character wins championships," MC coach Mike Parsons said. "That's what happened here. Our defense made the play."
It might not have mattered, however, had MC not been so stubborn as the first half was coming to its conclusion.
Randall tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Brian Levett to give Parker a 17-14 lead with just 13 seconds to play, and it appeared it would stay that way when the ensuing kickoff sailed out of the end zone.
Crusaders wouldn't quit
Rather than concede, Burse handed it to Roya -- who ran 33 yards to midfield, stepping out of bounds with 3 seconds left. Burse dropped back for a Hail Mary, but after avoiding the rush for 10 seconds, headed upfield with the ball.
The clock had long since expired when he was tackled at the Parker 5, but a facemask penalty gave the Crusaders a play with zeroes on the clock.
Burse flicked a 3-yard TD to Nelson, who got a foot down before falling out of bounds. The six points would be huge.
The second half turned into the shootout folks were expecting from teams averaging more than 45 points per game.
Randall was a beast, piling up 280 yards on 36 carries and tossing two TDs. He accounted for 80 percent of Parker's yardage and all five TDs -- including a 2-yard run to give Parker a 40-36 lead with 8:49 to play in the fourth quarter.
MC responded by going 80 yards on just seven plays, as Roya broke loose on a 39-yard run to get the ball past midfield. Aaron Brown gained 22 yards on an inside run, Nelson had a 10-yard catch on second-and-13 at the Parker 17 and then Roya scored on a 1-yard run. Burse then ran in the PAT for a 44-40 lead.
"Southern California needs to give the north respect after this," said Burse, aware that NorCal teams were just 2-9 in bowls the last three years.
"This is for NorCal, but it's also for the (Northern San Joaquin) Valley and it's for our school. We're the first to come down and win here."
Central Catholic was in the Division 3 Bowl in 2007, but lost to St. Bonaventure.
"We won it for Central Catholic, too, because they hadn't won here," Roya said. "It feels good to know we're the first team to win here. Every week we got someone new, and every week we beat 'em."
Richard T. Estrada is a Bee staff writer; contact him at 578-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org