In the end, the decision was pretty easy.
The Johansen High football team had just marched down the field to get to within a point of Pacheco in both teams’ Western Athletic Conference opener on Friday night in Modesto.
There were 37 seconds left, and the Vikings had the option of kicking a game-tying extra point or going for the victory.
“I huddled the kids up and said, ‘Hey, we didn’t come here to tie it up. We came here to win,” Johansen coach Scott Sacuskie said.
After that, his leading rusher, Jesse Arriola, a big part of the eventual game-winning, 55-yard drive, told his coach he wanted the ball.
Minutes later, the senior running back was rushing into the end zone from 3 yards out to seal the come-from-behind 21-20 victory.
The Vikings, who improve to 3-1 overall, 1-0 in the WAC, play at Mountain House (0-4, 0-1) next week. The Mustangs were drilled by Davis 48-27 on Friday night.
Arriola finished with 150 yards rushing on 21 carries. He also scored a touchdown.
Johansen trailed 14-0 deep into the third quarter and appeared headed for a defeat when the Panthers (1-3, 0-1) went ahead 20-13 in the fourth quarter.
With about 90 seconds left, Johansen took over on its own 45-yard line, and Arriola, behind key blocks from guards Sammy Garcia and Jacob Bojorquez, got the Vikings down to the 10-yard line with under a minute left.
That’s when quarterback John Romero hit a wide-open tight end Isaiah Knight for the score to get Johansen to within 20-19, setting up Arriola’s push into the end zone on the two-point play.
Romero hit Tiernan Collins on a touchdown pass late in the third quarter to get the Vikings to within 14-7 and Arriola scored from short yardage midway through the fourth to close it to 14-13.
“From a character standpoint, this was a huge win,” Sacuskie said. “They came out in the first half and we gave up three big plays.”
He said the team made some crucial mistakes on Pacheco’s touchdown drive that put the Los Banos school up by seven points in the fourth quarter. Also, the Vikings easily could have gotten down on themselves after being blanked for nearly three quarters, but they stayed determined.
At halftime, Sacuskie was “preaching to the kids.”
“These games go 130 to 160 plays,” he told the team. “You can’’t get too high or too low. Play each down, each drive, each quarter, each half one at a time. I know it’s a cliché. But at the end of the night, if you give everything you have, the scoreboard will be in your favor.”