CALABASAS >> There were penalties. There were turnovers. There were too many missed opportunities.
Yet the Calabasas football team still had a chance to pull out an improbable rally and decided to put the ball in the hands of its top playmaker.
Darnay Holmes caught two spectacular touchdown passes from Tristan Gebbia in the fourth quarter, but the ball sailed through Holmes’ hands on a potential game-winning two-point pass with 2:30 left and Camarillo escaped with a 40-39 nonleague victory Friday night in a battle of unbeaten teams.
“Our whole team wanted to win. It was not just the Darnay Show. It was the Calabasas show,” Holmes said. “I told them to give me the ball and put it in my hands and I’ll make plays happen. We’ll come back from this. I’m not worried about this loss.”
Camarillo’s Elijah Alexander had a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown with 8:09 left in the game for a 40-26 lead, but Calabasas came storming back.
Holmes caught a fade into the corner for a 20-yard touchdown catch from Gebbia with 5:55 left to close within 40-33.
Then Holmes hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Gebbia with 2:30 left to pull within 40-39.
Calabasas decided to go for the gusto, trying for a two-point play instead of playing for the tie and a possible overtime period.
Gebbia dropped back, tried to hit Holmes with a quick out-pass and the pass went through his hands.
“We wanted to put the ball in Darnay’s hands,” Gebbia said. “At the end, he jumped up, I tried to put it over the top and I missed it. It hurts.
“But we proved a lot, even though the final score might not reflect it. We have not been down like that before, and we came back.”
Gebbia threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns on 26 of 45 passing and also scored a rushing touchdown, but threw two interceptions. In fact, Calabasas had four turnovers and was stopped twice on two other fourth-down plays.
Even after the failed two-point pass, the Calabasas defense came up with a stop to get the ball back with 1:30 left, but Calabasas’ Marquel Dismuke muffed the punt and Camarillo recovered.
From there, Camarillo took a couple of knees to close it out.
“We asked you to compete and make plays, and you guys did that,” Calabasas coach Casey Clausen told his team afterward. “But in big games, you cannot turn the ball over. You cannot make mistakes against good teams.
“But as many mistakes as we had, we still had a chance to win. It hurts, and it should hurt. But the good news is that we’ll come back tomorrow and watch some film.”
Brian Hightower caught three touchdown passes from Gebbia from 14 yards, 5 yards and 15 yards.
Isaiah Hayes had an interception for Calabasas.
It looked like Calabasas had a chance to put the game away early. Leading 7-0, it appeared that Camarillo muffed a punt and Calabasas’ Nasir Bright recovered it in the end zone. But the officials ruled that a punt cannot be recovered in the end zone, negating what would have been a 14-0 lead, much to the disbelief of the Calabasas coaching staff.
Instead of a touchdown, it was ruled a touchback.
“They said if we recovered it outside the end zone, it would have been our ball,” Clausen said. “But they said it is an automatic touchback if the ball is recovered in the end zone, no matter who recovers it.”
Calabasas did take a 13-0 lead on Gebbia’s 2-yard scoring run and a 20-7 lead on Hightower’s 5-yard touchdown catch from Gebbia,
But Camarillo hung tight, using a 2-yard scoring run by Isaiah Otis, a 2-yard scoring run by Aaron Lamb and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jake Constantine to Francisco Tostado for a 21-20 Camarillo halftime lead.
Desmond Clancy extended the Camarillo lead to 27-20 with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Constantine. Hightower’s 15-yard TD catch brought Calabasas within 27-26, but Camarillo pushed the lead to 40-26 on Colby Stevens’ 15-yard scoring run on a spin and Alexander’s 25-yard interception return for a touchdown.
By Tony Ciniglio, LA Daily News