COSTA MESA – Josh Webb came as advertised on Friday, but all the superlatives in the world wouldn't do the triple-threat senior from Garden Grove High justice. Not after that.
Webb's highlight reel performance included three touchdowns and a two-point conversion, the latter with 1 minute 27 seconds left in the game, to give the top-seeded Argonauts a 31-30 Southern Division victory over Beckman at Orange Coast College.
“The journey is complete,” said first-year coach Willie Puga, whose team has been on an emotional ride for the past two season. It began with the death of senior linebacker Kevin Telles in the first game of the 2009 season and the commitment to win a championship ring for him, but Garden Grove lost in last year's final after quarterback Sean Young was injured. Puga, and Webb, say the spirit of Telles is still strong with this team.
“We made a promise that we'd get a ring,” said receiver Avery Williams, who caught six passes for 98 yards. “We didn't do it last year, but we did it this year. We kept the promise.”
Garden Grove (13-1) might play another week. The Argonauts will certainly be in the conversation for being the State Division III Bowl representative from the south.
It wasn't just that Webb put up good numbers – 16 carries for 191 yards and two touchdowns, 10 receptions for 144 yards and a score, three of five passing for 27 yards, and he blocked an extra point – but it the manner in which he did it and under the pressure that was on him.
His game-winning touchdown came from five yards. He went to the outside and then leaped over a defender with a complete flip. He landed squarely on his back, but it jarred the air out of Beckman. “Coach told me to go over the top,” Webb said.
He must have said go out on top, too.
Still down by a point, the Argonauts pooh-poohed the idea of a tie and went for two points and the victory. Webb was in motion and was handed the ball in front of quarterback Jovani Duran from the shotgun; Webb swept around the right corner and again took a flying leap – this time rotating over the top of two defenders and landing on both feet in the end zone.
“I have never have done anything like that before,” said Webb, who on the previous drive had scrambled 70 yards from one side of the field to the other – the only reason he was caught at the 11 yard line was because he was winded – to set up a game-tying field goal by Duran. That play was the biggest of the night, first-year coach Willie Puga said.
“Amazing, just amazing,” said Puga, whose team has been to the finals twice in a row after having not been since 1945. “He's the best player I'll ever coach. We've been working that conversion play all week.”
Maybe not exactly like it will appear on film, though. Said Williams of the aerobatics: “We don't do stuff like that in practice.”
Williams played his own role, leaping up for a 23 yard reception on the play preceding Webb's final TD.
If Webb – who completed three of five passes for 27 yards – came as advertised, Beckman (8-6) did not. The Patriots hardly looked like an at-large team that entered the playoffs with a 5-5 record. They answered every Garden Grove challenge, except for the last one, when Cameron Biedgoly was sacked by Brian Lozano and then missed on three pass attempts. Beckman had scored on its other three possessions of the second half. Jeff Kim carried 22 times for 137 yards and a touchdown. Biedgoly completed 10 of 16 for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for a score.
Beckman, which played from behind in the first half, played from ahead in the second. When Biedgoly passed 15 yards to Austin Archer to go ahead 30-23 with 3:46 remaining, it looked like its Cinderella season might endure.
There was too much time on the clock.
Webb was mercurial all right. Despite being well-covered, he made a great over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead. Once that tightened to 7-6 – he blocked the PAT attempt Zack Rivera's one-yard run – he scored from 77 yards by peeling around the left side and outrunning the secondary. Grove's PAT was wide, and Beckman tied the score 2-1/2 minutes later.
Webb played a major role in that, too. He attempted to intercept a pass in the flat – and came close – but got burned by Andrew Flores instead who ran for a 72-yard gain to the five. Two plays later, Biedgoly scored.
Grove was its own worst enemy in the first half which ended 13-13. The Argonauts committed three turnovers – an interception and two fumbles. The first fumble, by the QB Duran, gave Beckman a 19-yard field and the Patriots cashed in. The latter fumble by Webb came at the Beckman three-yard line that went out of bounds in the side of the end zone with 2:39 left in the half.
But Webb got more chances. And he made up for it. And then some.
“This team has a lot of heart,” Webb said. “I couldn't let them down. This had to be our year.”