CHOWCHILLA -- Fred Gaines may have a future as an offensive coordinator when his days at Chowchilla come to an end.
Of course, he won't have the luxury of calling his own number -- like he did on Friday night against Washington Union.
Faced with a fourth-and-6 from the Washington Union 20-yard line with just over two minutes to play, Chowchilla coach John Henson called a timeout and gathered his offense around him.
That's when Gaines offered a suggestion.
"I had a play all ready in the huddle and Fred suggested we try fades," Henson said. "I liked it.
"It's an aggressive play that gave our quarterback four choices."
Chowchilla quarterback Rob Diepersloot would only need one.
Despite little room to work with at the back of the end zone and a Washington Union defender draped all over Gaines, Diepersloot lofted a ball for him in the left corner of the end zone.
The senior wingback somehow rose up and caught the ball, sealing Chowchilla's 26-17 victory in the Central Section Division IV semifinals.
"I looked around, but I had a feeling I was going to go to Fred on that play," Diepersloot said. "The guy is an amazing athlete and he made another great catch."
Chowchilla (11-1) will host Kingsburg -- who beat Central Valley Christian 14-13 -- next week for the Valley title.
"Knowing that we get to play that game at home, in front of our tremendous crowd is an unbelievable feeling," said Gaines who added a 5-yard TD run.
Whether Chowchilla would be playing for the title remained in doubt for most of the second half.
Washington Union (7-5) cut Chowchilla's lead to 20-17 with an impressive four-play, 72-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter.
As it has done all season, Chowchilla's defense responded.
This time with a" bend but don't break" approach.
WU quarterback Adam McCurley took advantage of a short passing attack, airing it out for 325 yards on a 26-for-47 performance.
But despite the big night, Washington Union was held scoreless in the game's last 22 minutes.
Gaines, Terrance Olivia and Daniel Gutierrez all had second half interceptions, and Chowchilla twice forced Washington Union to turn the ball over on downs.
"Our philosophy was to make them drive with a short passing game, which most spread teams don't like to do," Henson said. "We made some great adjustments at halftime and our kids were able to make some big plays."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WU 0 10 7 0 -- 17
CHOWCHILLA 12 8 0 6 -- 26
C -- Jordin Rogers 27 pass from Rob Diepersloot (Run failed)
C -- Fred Gaines 5 run (Run failed)
WU -- Eddie Daniels 4 pass from Adam McCurley (Carlos Flores kick)
C -- Kyle Espinola 4 run (David Dejager pass from Diepersloot)
WU -- Flores 36 field goal
WU -- Josh Williams 49 pass from McCurley Flores kick)
C -- Gaines 20 pass from Diepersloot (Run failed)
Records: Washington Union 7-5, Chowchilla 11-1.