You see them every Sunday in the NFL.
You see them every Saturday in college football.
Game-winning field goals.
You also see game-losing field goals (see Andrew Baggett).
In high school, you don't see either very often. These games are decided in increments of touchdowns, not field goals.
But Saturday, the California Pintos pinned their hopes on the shoulders, and the leg, of Aaron Cuevas.
The Pintos are a senior-dominated team. And Cuevas is a sophomore.
This is a lot to ask of a 15/16-year old kid with the season on the line.
But Cuevas drilled a line-drive, 26-yard field goal with 3.6 seconds left, as the Pintos pulled out a wild 26-24 win over the McCluer South Bulldogs in the Class 3 quarterfinals in St. Louis.
In other quarterfinal bouts involving Central Missouri teams Saturday, Helias (Class 4) pulled away from St. Charles West 44-21, and Blair Oaks (Class 2) held off Palmyra 28-20.
The seasons came to an end for three other area teams. In Class 5, Parkway Central beat Camdenton, 23-13; in Class 3, Seneca finished off Eldon, 43-0; and in Class 1, Marceline put together a late 97-yard drive and scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:26 left to edge Westran, 13-9.
The Pintos (12-1) scored a safety on the game's opening kickoff and held a 16-0 lead late in the first half. But the Bulldogs (10-2) scored a touchdown just before the break to get within 16-8, before pulling even early in the second half.
California regained a 23-16 lead, before South scored again and converted another two-point conversion to take a 24-23 lead. That set up the game-winning heroics, as Cuevas booted the Pintos into the semifinals.
This will be a semifinal rematch, but this time it will be in California at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Last year in Maryville, the Spoofhounds dusted the Pintos 42-7 on their way to winning the Class 3 state championship.
Top-ranked Maryville (13-0) advanced with a 42-20 win over Oak Grove.
In St. Charles, the Crusaders (11-2) scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt Porter to Hale Hentges --- who outdueled two Warrior defenders to make the catch --- on a 3rd-and-20 with 5 1/2 minutes in the first quarter and were never headed.
The Warriors (10-3) did pull even at 7-7, before Helias rattled off 30 unanswered points to build a 37-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on their way to the 23-point win.
The early scoring toss kick-started a big day by Porter. The senior lefty threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns (the other scores were 13 yards to Josh Woodruff and 31 yards to Michael Tannehill), and he also scored on a one-yard run.
Garrett Buschjost was a workhorse on the ground, as he rushed for 194 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Helias, which led 17-7 at the half and 30-7 after three quarters, finished with 465 total yards.
The third-ranked Crusaders are now one step away from their second straight trip to the state championship game, as they'll host Liberty North at 1:30 Saturday at Adkins Stadium.
Unranked Liberty North, now a modest 9-4, rolled over previously unbeaten and second-ranked Bolivar 35-0 on Saturday.
Like Helias, the Falcons are now just one win away from their second straight trip to the Dome.
Unlike Helias, this one came down to the final play.
Ninth-ranked Palmyra (12-1) took an early 6-0 lead, before eighth-ranked Blair Oaks (12-1) --- winners of 12 straight --- scored 22 straight points, taking a 15-6 lead at the half and a 22-6 lead in the third quarter.
The Panthers battled back, getting within 22-14 and then 22-20 on a touchdown with just over three minutes left in the game. But the two-point conversion passed was dropped, leaving Blair Oaks with two-point lead.
After the Falcons scored to make it 28-20, the Panthers moved it inside the Blair Oaks' 25 as time expired on an incomplete pass.
Dominic Jamerson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, while Haydn Lock hooked up with Corbin Singer on a 53-yard scoring pass. Blair Oaks got the win, despite being outgained 483-330.
Blair Oaks hosts unranked Lawson (11-2) --- a 27-14 quarterfinal winner over seventh-ranked and previously unbeaten Lafayette County --- at 1:30 Saturday in Wardsville.
Dream Blue and Gold.