Maybe it was the full moon shining high above Churchill High School. Maybe it was just a little leftover Halloween trickery.
Whatever it was, it allowed No. 16 Wootton to add another storybook ending to its storybook season as Geoff Pearce kicked a 31-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining to beat Churchill, 13-10, in front of over 3,000 fans.
The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Patriots (9-0). The loss drops Churchill to 7-2 and jeopardizes its playoff chances.
"What can you say after an exciting finish like that?" Patriots Coach Bob Hampton said. "You've got two real good football teams playing and we're lucky we came out on top."
The game was tied with 48 seconds to play when Wootton stopped the Bulldogs at their 43. Melvin Crawford punted and Marlon Evans fielded the ball at the Patriots 40. He started up the right sideline and appeared to be swamped by five tacklers at midfield. But Evans appeared from the crowd and cut across the field before being stopped at the 33.
Quarterback Mike Mehok missed Ed Reilly once, then hit him for a six-yard completion. On the next play Mehok fumbled the snap but recovered the ball at the line of scrimmage.
On fourth down at the 28, the field goal team lined up for what would have been a 46-yard field goal try. But Churchill was whistled for an unsportsmanlike penalty during the dead ball, moving Wootton to the 13.
Pearce made the kick and the large contingent of over-boisterous Wootton fans stormed onto the field, causing a delay-of-game penalty.
"It just came to a field goal like we thought it would," Pearce said. "I was very nervous but I had to make it or it could be our season."
The game was tight the whole way through as both offenses struggled to move the ball against hard-hitting defenses.
Wootton struck first as Churchill fumbled the ball away on each of its first two possessions. The second time, Alan Dinerman returned it 33 yards for the touchdown.
Churchill knotted it up four minutes later when Ray Leonard Jr. burst through the line from one yard for the score.