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By Jim Shilander

San Juan Hills quarterback Jacob Gibson had just thrown a 59-yard touchdown to put his team in front of visiting Fountain Valley 28-27 in the fourth quarter. But it was in his role as the Stallions’ punter that may have saved the team’s playoff hopes on Friday.

When the snap sailed over Gibson’s head from the Fountain Valley 44-yard line, and with Barons rushing toward him, Gibson managed to get off a kick that netted field position for the Stallions, averting a disaster that could have turned the game.

Fountain Valley’s next possession failed to gain positive yardage, but they still had two final chances with 10 seconds remaining.

After an incompletion, San Juan Hills’ Nathan Montelongo intercepted the Barons last gasp attempt, sealing a win for the Stallions in the first round of the CIF-SS Southwest Division playoffs.

San Juan Hills will travel to play Huntington Beach on November 22 in the second round.

The Stallions defense forced four turnovers, including three inside their own 10-yard line during the game, which kept things close.

The first turnover came on the first drive of the game, as the Stallions recovered a fumble at the six. The Stallions capitalized, as Jordan Pape hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass for the game’s first score.

The Barons struck back quickly, as receiver Noah Rivard hauled in a 22-yard pass, making it 7-7.

The Barons then took advantage of a Gibson mistake, returning an interception for a 25-yard score and the lead.

The Stallions responded on their next drive, going 75 yards, and ended it on a three-yard pass from Gibson to Aguilar on fourth-and-goal. However, a two-point try was snuffed out by the Barons, who scored again just before the half to take a 21-13 lead into the break.

It didn’t start well for San Juan Hills in the second half, as the Stallions turned the ball over on their first play. But the defense forced a second Baron fumble, this time taking over at the four-yard line.

After a Stallions three-and-out, Fountain Valley took over, but again, San Juan Hills forced another turnover following a Jacob Buchanan interception. This time, the Stallions moved the ball, using a Kolton McCluskey 62-yard catch and a Mike Miscione two-yard run to score. McCluskey caught the ensuing two-point conversion pass, setting up a close fourth quarter.

Baron kicker Jonah Mack hit his second field goal of the game to put Fountain Valley up 27-21 with just over six minutes left.

Montelongo returned the ensuing kickoff to the Stallion 42. After Miscione rushed for no gain, Gibson just missed a receiver open behind the defense. However, on the next play, he found Miscione for a 58-yard touchdown pass and the win.

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