Diamond Bar suffers a heartbreaking loss in last league game

After all the senior night festivities, the Brahmas fell short in a neck-and-neck game against the Don Lugo Conquistadores, losing 16-13. 

The stellar scrambling ability and improvisation of senior quarterback Dylan Karanickolas were evenly matched with impressive performances from Don Lugo running backs Jojo Galindo and Gary Garcia, who were unstoppable in the open field. 

However, a clutch interception by a cornerback from the Conquistador secondary in the final quarter initiated the game-winning drive, as Don Lugo continued to milk the clock through its run game and kicked the game-winning field goal with merely six seconds to spare. 

The game started with a mishap, as a miscommunication between the offensive line and Karanickolas cost a fumble that rolled into the backfield, resulting in a twelve-yard loss. This play led to a quick three-and-out for Diamond Bar. Don Lugo earned the same result on the subsequent possession courtesy of a holding penalty. 

On the next Brahma drive that started deep in their own territory, Karanickolas began to generate some offense despite the continuous blitzes Don Lugo threw at him. After solid runs from junior running back Josiah Hunter and a clutch fourth-down conversion, Karanickolas scrambled out the pocket to find junior wide receiver Chase Wells deep in the endzone to score the first Diamond Bar touchdown. The first quarter ended 7-0 in favor of the Brahmas.

The second quarter started with another exchange of quick three-and-outs, as the Conquistadores regained possession near midfield. The one-two punch of Galindo and Garcia allowed Don Lugo to get within the Diamond Bar redzone, mixing up outside pitches and inside handoffs to confuse the Brahma defensive line. 

However, after the Diamond Bar defensive front forced a long fourth-down attempt, the Don Lugo quarterback threw a completion deep into the left corner of the endzone in man-to-man coverage, scoring a touchdown and equalizing 7-7.

 The Brahmas immediately fumbled the ball on their next offensive drive, allowing the Conquistador offense to score a 14-yard rushing touchdown through the heart of the Brahma defense. After a blocked PAT, Don Lugo led 13-7. 

With about three minutes left in the half, the following offensive possession from Diamond Bar began with a 15-yard run from Hunter. After the Conquistadores committed an offsides penalty, Karanickolas scrambled to get the Brahmas near the Don Lugo 40-yard line. 

The star quarterback then connected with Wells, who tiptoed down the sidelines for a 20-yard gain, juking his way into the Conquistador redzone. After drifting right due to a collapsed pocket, Karanickolas found junior wide receiver Blake Davis on a curl route to score the second Brahma touchdown, putting six more on the board in the dying seconds of the first half. A missed PAT by the Brahmas kept the score at a stalemate, with a score of 13-13. 

The start of the second half featured a defensive battle from both teams. After Diamond Bar forced a fourth-down turnover, the Brahmas moved into Don Lugo territory following a face-mask personal foul on the Conquistadores. Despite elite man coverage from the Don Lugo defense, Karanickolas managed to get the Brahmas within 20 yards through completions to Wells and Davis.

As the Brahma kicker missed the ensuing 25-yard field goal, Don Lugo ended the third quarter after their quarterback threw a 40-yard completion to a wide receiver on a slant route to enter Brahma territory. 

In the final quarter, the Conquistadores continued to pound the ball down the Brahmas’ throats. However, the outside pitches were sniffed out by the Diamond Bar secondary, stopping a fourth-down conversion attempt deep in Brahma territory. 

The next offensive drive for Diamond Bar featured Karanickolas’ improvisation once again, finding open receivers while scrambling outside the pocket. However, a misread by the  quarterback on a fourth-down attempt deep in Don Lugo territory caused a costly interception, as the Conquistador cornerback brought the ball out to midfield.

On the following possession, the Don Lugo offense began to milk the clock through their running game, getting within the Brahmas’ 20-yard line. With six seconds remaining in the game, the Conquistador kicker nailed the field goal straight through the uprights, resulting in a heartbreaking 16-13 loss for Diamond Bar. 

The loss puts Diamond Bar in a three-way tie for a spot in the CIF playoffs, which will be determined by a coin toss. The Brahmas ended tied for second place, earning a 3-2 record in the Mt. Baldy League and a 5-5 overall record.