MOORPARK -- Goat or hero? It was one or the other for Jamie Sutcliffe. The senior from Thousand Oaks had his choice of monikers and the latter ended up sticking.
Sutcliffe nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired Friday night to lift the visiting Lancers to a 27-24 victory over Moorpark in a Marmonte League opener for both teams.
"Staying calm, cool and collected, that's all I was thinking about,'' Sutcliffe said.
Easier said than done.
Keep in mind, he had missed three of four field-goal attempts before splitting the uprights for the game-winner. Talk about pressure. Nevertheless, Sutcliffe delivered when it mattered most.
"You're only as good as your last kick, that's something us kickers believe,'' Sutcliffe said. “I made sure not to worry about my other chances. I put those kicks in the back of mind. I had already moved on. My thought was the kick in the fourth quarter was the most important one of my career. Glad it went in. Glad I made it.''
Grant Rohach had Moorpark (1-1, 0-1) in position to win with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Max Player had other ideas. He interceped a Rohach pass at the Lancers 8-yard line.
Behind the passing of Clark Abourisk and the running of Nathan DeBeikes, Thousand Oaks (2-0, 1-0) marched downfield to set the stage for Sutcliffe.
“Jamie is our guy, he is the one we want up there in pressure situations,'' Lancers coach Mike Leibin said. “I told him to keep his head down. He did. He banged that kick home, it would have been good from 50-plus yards. I had confidence in him the whole time.''
Blake Howell stepped in front of a Rohach pass and took the ball 67 yards for a touchdown to tie the score, 24-24, with 4:25 left. At that point, Thousand Oaks had all the momentum.
“We made too may mistakes tonight,'' Moorpark coach Tim Lins said. “We have to learn to stay focused for the entire game. We had too may mental lapses. We gave them too many chances.''
On third and long from the midfield in the fourth quarter, Rohach found Chad Hansen on 40-yard touchdown to give Moorpark a 24-17 lead with 9:46 left.
Rohach finished 14-of-24 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Tolliver had six catches for 86 yards.
Thousand Oaks came up with a big play to start the second half when Abourisk connected with Andrew Van Voy on a 20-yard touchdown to tie the score, 17-17, with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
Abourisk completed 11-of-17 passes for 195 yards. DeBeikes had 120 yards on 18 carries.
Rohach directed a scoring drive just before half. His 30-yard pass to Tolliver moved Moorpark into the red zone. Shortly thereafter, Rohach scored on a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle to extend the advantage to 17-7 with 1:21 left in the second quarter.
The Lancers gained some much-needed momentum at the end of the first half. Sutcliffe made a 27-yard field goal as time expired to cut the lead to 17-10 at the break.
It was a small measure of redemption for Sutcliffe. He had missed a 23-yarder in the third quarter. He also shanked a 35-yarder and a 41-yarder in the first quarter.
His counterpart, Eric Kreitz, capped second quarter drive for Moorpark with a 28-yard field goal to increase the lead to 10-0 at the 4:38 mark of the first half.
Abourisk responded and found Howell on a 73-yard touchdown pass to trim the deficit down, 10-7, at the 3:44 mark of the first half.
In the end though, Sutcliffe was the proverbial hero.
"Making a kick with no time on the clock, that's something you dream about as a football player,'' he said. "It was a once in a lifetime chance.''
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.