As soon as Frankie Cocio rolled he knew he was in trouble.
The Sobrato defense was sitting on the play-action pass the Atwater football team had used so effectively against it for most of Friday night, leaving the Falcons quarterback no passing options.
The junior tucked the ball, escaped through the pocket and broke back to the left. He avoided the last defender at the goal line and sprinted in for the game-winning touchdown in a 27-20 double-overtime victory over the Bulldogs at Falcon Field.
“They weren’t fooled by the play-action at all,” said Cocio, who was 12 of 25 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown. “I saw there was nothing there and did the only thing I could do – tuck the ball and run.
“I was just trying to get as many yards as I could, then when I cut back left the whole field opened up. With how hard my team played tonight, there was no way I was going to let them down and not get in.”
The 12-yard touchdown run gave the Falcons just their second lead of the season after squaring off with some of the top programs in the Sac-Joaquin and Central sections in their first four games. A homecoming victory was just what Bob Valladao’s team needed heading into its bye week.
But as has been the case for Atwater (1-4) this season, nothing came easy against Sobrato (1-2).
Cocio almost didn’t get the chance to make the game-winning play after Atwater missed an extra point in the first overtime.
Michael Vargas (game-high 105 rushing yards on 26 carries) gave Atwater a 20-14 lead with a 3-yard touchdown run, but Mario Chavez’s extra point was partially blocked.
The Bulldogs needed just three plays to answer as quarterback Nick Secolo kept the ball on an option and ran six yards for a score. A false start penalty pushed Sobrato back five yards and Carlos Elizando pulled his kick just wide to give Atwater second life.
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The Atwater defense took full advantage, forcing the Bulldogs to turn the ball over on downs at the 3-yard line in the first possession of second overtime. It was the conclusion to another outstanding showing by the Falcons defense, which limited Sobrato to 37 total yards in the second half and two overtimes.
“The defense has done a great job all season,” Valladao said. “The first half they had that one drive, and then we fail to cover up the kick and set up their second touchdown.
“That pretty much killed the second quarter for us, but they really didn’t do anything offensively beyond that. We had a lot of guys out there that hadn’t seen the field this year, because of injuries. And I was really pleased how everyone responded.”
After fumbling on its first two possessions, Atwater finally got going offensively at the end of the first quarter. Cocio and Daniel Uribe were a big part of it, connecting seven times in the game for 89 yards. Cocio found Adonis Hill in the end zone with a 9-yard TD pass to make it 7-0 Falcons.
A little misfortune allowed Sobrato to tie the game, as the Bulldogs fumbled at the Atwater 1-yard line, but an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead and let Sobrato keep the ball. The Bulldogs punched it in two plays later.
Perhaps reeling a bit from the bad luck, Atwater was caught sleeping on the ensuing pooch kick, allowing a Sobrato player to catch it uncontested off of a bounce.
Secolo made the Falcons pay four plays later, breaking a 12-yard run to send the Bulldogs into halftime up 14-7.
Atwater evened things with its first drive of the second half, marching 49 yards on seven plays. Vargas finished it off with a 5-yard run, but the Falcons offense couldn’t get going again until overtime.
“I think we took a big step forward tonight,” Cocio said. “We were as consistent as we want to be, but we made the plays when we needed to. It’s a big first win.”
This story was originally published September 26, 2014 11:18 PM.