Interception sparks Churchill’s comeback win
The fate of Churchill’s season depended on the bounce of the football.
Actually, it was two bounces.
Chargers sophomore defensive back Gavin Castro made sure there wouldn’t a third as he snagged a twice-tipped pass for an interception. That led to a go-ahead touchdown and a playoff berth in Churchill’s 24-20 victory over Roosevelt on Friday at Heroes Stadium.
“It was a great moment playing for some of the seniors, knowing it could be their last game,” Castro said. “It was a good feeling.”
District 27-6A’s fourth and final district playoff spot was on the line, with the winner getting the berth.
The Chargers (5-5, 4-3) will play Brennan or Brandeis in the first round of the 6A Division II playoffs next week.
Castro’s interception came after Roosevelt’s Carlos Garibay scrambled and fired downfield. The ball deflected off two Churchill defenders before Castro secured it and returned it 23 yards to the Rough Riders’ 12-yard-line.
“I got it and took it as far as I could,” Castro said. “I saw it, and I just went for it. I had a general idea (of where the ball was going). It just happened. It was instincts, really.”
Chargers quarterback Derek Perez scored on a 1-yard sneak five plays later that put the Chargers ahead for good, 24-20, with 4:19 to play.
“I’m so glad he did that,” Perez said of Castro’s interception. “It was a huge play by a sophomore. It was incredible.”
It was Perez’s second touchdown in the fourth quarter. He had a 26-yard scoring run that pulled the Chargers to within 20-17 with 8:21 left.
Perez led the Chargers with 122 yards on 22 carries.
Castro capped the game with another interception at midfield in the final minute that ended Roosevelt’s comeback hopes.
The Rough Riders (4-6, 3-4) were in search of their first playoff berth since 2012. Their chances looked good after they took a 20-10 lead on Rashod Owen’s 4-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Owens gave the Rough Riders a 13-10 lead with 6 minutes left in the third quarter on another 4-yard run. Castro blocked the extra point after the score.
Turnovers hurt Churchill in the first half, with a fumble leading to Roosevelt’s first touchdown and an interception that took away a potential score.
Roosevelt took a 7-0 lead when it recovered a muffed punt on Churchill’s 3-yard-line. Jacobe Jackson scored on the next play to put the Rough Riders up 7-0 with 4:46 left in the first quarter.
The Chargers tied it at 7 on the next series on Perez’s 11-yard keeper late in the first quarter.
Churchill drove to Roosevelt’s 13 on its next possession before Josh Hollis picked off a running back pass from Cody Lilie in the end zone early in the second quarter.
The Chargers took a 10-7 lead 19 seconds before halftime on Nick Falsone’s 34-yard field goal.
Churchill qualified for the playoffs first time since 2016.
“It feels good because we didn’t make the playoffs last year,” Perez said. “It feels good to bounce back from last year.”