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ANAHEIM — Segerstrom and Katella both viewed their Big 4 League football clash Thursday as a must-win game to keep their playoff chances alive.
The Jaguars are still very much alive and kicking.
Hustling defensive lineman Brian Silva recovered a fumble at the Segerstrom 12-yard-line with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter to seal a 14-7 victory at Glover Stadium in yet another dramatic finish in the closely-matched Big 4.
Segerstrom (3-6, 1-1) lost to Marina 24-23 last week in their league opener but bounced back to force an even bigger game next week at Garden Grove (6-2, 1-0), which plays Marina (3-5, 1-0) on Friday for sole possession of first place.
“We had to win, and we got to win out,” Segerstrom coach Joseph Tagaloa said. “Our kids were resilient tonight, so I’m very proud of our effort.”
Katella (4-5, 0-2), coming off an overtime loss to Garden Grove last week, started its final drive at its 28 with 3:19 remaining and reached Segerstrom’s 15 with about 45 seconds left.
Quarterback Daunte Bell completed a short pass toward the Jaguars sideline but Segerstrom outside linebacker Alijah Sadler capped a stellar game by stripping the ball from the wide receiver, leading to Silva’s diving recovery.
It was a fitting ending for the Jaguars, who were led by their defense for the second consecutive league game.
Segerstrom’s defense and special teams forced three turnovers, including a 70-yard interception return for a score by Sadler, to support its offense that only managed 100 yards.
The Jaguars also held explosive junior running back Gabriel Dawson to 18 yards on 11 carries. Defensive end Jalen Cervantes recorded one of Segerstrom’s two sacks.
Katella also forced three turnovers in the duel of defenses.
“Our defense again played extremely well,” Tagaloa said of a unit that didn’t allow a touchdown against Marina.
Segerstrom capitalized on a special teams mistake by Katella for the only score of the second half.
With three minutes left in third quarter, the Jaguars forced a punt from the Knights 30 and tackled the punter at his 4 after an apparent errant snap.
On third-and-goal, freshman running back Noah Tagaloa — the coach’s son who played with a heavily tapped right hand because of a fractured wrist — caught a pass from quarterback Frankie Gonzalez as Segerstrom took a 14-7 lead.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Katella capitalized on a fumble recovery to strike first. Bell rolled out and tossed a 62-yard TD pass to DeQuan Green with 6:54 left in the first half.
Segerstrom’s defense responded with its own key takeaway. Sadler, a senior transfer from Pacifica, grabbed away a likely reception for his third interception of the fall and raced untouched to tie the score 7-7 with 2:30 left in the second quarter.
“He is a player, for sure,” Tagaloa said of Sadler, who also had at least two tackles for loss.
Next week, Katella closes the regular season by playing host to Marina at Glover Stadium on Thursday while Segerstrom plays at Garden Grove on Friday. The Knights could help their playoff chances with a win, which would make them .500 for at least an at-large entry.