Ventura, CA — A new dramatic episode unfolded weekly. Each chapter was more thrilling than the last. There were one-point wins and losses. Games hung on single, decisive snaps. A winning streak built to a historic crescendo. Not even the most extreme rollercoaster of a season could prepare the Buena High football team for the way its historic season ended Saturday night. Phelan-Serrano scored two touchdowns in the final 3:12 to deny the Bulldogs the first CIF-Southern Section championship in school history, 21-14, in the Division 8 final, stunning a near-capacity home crowd of 4,500. Running back Rigoberto Cabral broke a tackle to tie the game with a 42-yard touchdown run with 3:12 left and Payton Cornell came off the bench to throw a game-winning, 81-yard scoring strike to quarterback Tanner Chaffee with 21 seconds left. After Buena led for 43 of the game’s 48 minutes, Serrano (12-3) used a 99-yard drive to take its only lead with 21 seconds to play and end Buena’s eight-game winning streak. “Defensively, they locked us down in the second half,” Buena head coach Ryan Bolland. “One or two big plays for them in the second half and us not being able to consistently drive the ball was the difference.” Senior running back Jake Murphy led Buena (10-4) with 81 yards from scrimmage, 50 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and three catches for 31 yards. Serrano’s ball-control offense kept the ball away from Buena quarterback Zane Carter, who entered the final 9-1 as a starter after taking over in September. Buena was limited to 155 yards of total offense on just 32 offensive snaps. Conversely, Serrano ran 60 offensive plays. Cabral rushed for 160 yards on 27 carries. It was a bitter ending for Buena’s thrilling ride to its first sectional final. “Obviously, it’s not the outcome that we wanted,” Bolland said. “It’s still the farthest that our school has gotten. To be runner-up in the Southern Section is a huge accomplishment.” Buena started the first football sectional final in its six-decade history and confidently took control. Murphy returned the opening kickoff to the Buena 40. Carter hit Colin Guenther with a 26-yard slant and Murphy with a 14-yard swing, setting up his 5-yard TD run, which gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 9:34 left in the first quarter. “We started really the way that we wanted to start,” Bolland said. “We got out, we moved the ball really well and we scored.” Serrano responded with a meticulous 12-play, 85-yard TD drive, tying the score on a 5-yard Chaffee run with 1:34 left in the quarter. “They did exactly what we thought they were going to do, which was control the ball as much as they could and take small chunks of yards,” Bolland said. “Overall, defensively we played pretty well.” Buena came right back and retook the lead with a nine-play scoring drive after Brandon Rice returned the kickoff to the Serrano 44. Murphy started the march with a 22-yard run and ended it with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:49 left in the second quarter. Buena’s 14-7 lead would last five minutes shy of three full quarters. Serrano drove to the Buena 37 and 32 with its final two possessions of the half, but the Bulldogs held. Sonny Chantler’s sack with 27.6 seconds left helped send Buena into halftime leading 14-7 Serrano took the second-half kickoff and flexed its ball-control ability, converting three fourth downs on a 16-play march that erased all but 99 seconds of the third quarter. But Serrano came up empty in the red zone. On third-and-9 from the Buena 13, linebacker Roma Barrios forced a fumble that Manny Mendez recovered. But Buena could not put the game out of reach. Serrano held the Bulldogs to three first downs and just 14 offensive snaps in the second half. “It hurt that our offense stalled in the second half,” Bolland said. “Once we’re ahead, if we can keep scoring, that makes it really tough on them.” Trailing 14-7 with 7:03 to play, Serrano moved the ball to midfield and converted a fourth-and-1 from the Buena 44 with less than four minutes to play. On the next snap, Cabral took a pitch left, worked his way through traffic and ran through a tackle to pop the game-tying 42-yard TD run with 3:12 left. Buena stalled on the 50-yard line on the subsequent drive. After lining up on fourth-and-5, Carter placed a perfect quick kick that was downed inside the Serrano 1 with 1:11 left. “That’s a phenomenal punt by Zane and the coverage team to pin it inside the 5,” Bolland said. Overtime beckoned after Cabral’s 9-yard run moved the chains with less than 40 seconds to play. Rather than down the ball and play for OT, Serrano was ready to take a shot at the title. Serrano slipped Cornell, its starting quarterback who had suffered an ankle injury late in the regular season, into a game for the first time in a month. "We’ve been talking about (using Cornell), but I want to give a lot of kudos to my offensive coordinator for being real patient with the game," Serrano head coach Casey Maholchic told the Victorville Valley Press. "He pulled an ace out of his pocket there at the end and took a shot and stuck it." Serrano shifted Chaffee, who moved from receiver to quarterback throughout the postseason, back to receiver. "To step in there at quarterback for the first time in four, five weeks and throw a pass — I just knew I had to connect," Cornell told the Valley Press. "I had my favorite receiver Tanner. It’s great. I just had to make the connection one last time.” Cornell faked a pitch and dropped back on play action, letting fly a deep pass down the right sideline. Chaffee leaped to pull it down, broke a tackle and sprinted to a 79-yard touchdown with 21 seconds to play. “Our secondary has played great all year,” Bolland said. “It’s been the strength of our defense in a lot of ways, down the stretch especially. … That’s just a case where it didn’t work out for us.” A pass interference flag helped Buena move the ball to midfield with 10 seconds left, but its Hail Mary was incomplete. “We’ve been fortunate to come out on the plus side of a lot of these really close games, especially down the stretch,” Bolland said. “It didn’t fall our way this time.”