The San Diego Old Aztecs return to the DII semifinals by beating Snake River 34-29 in a four-overtime thriller Sunday in Chula Vista, Calif.
Snake River led most of the first 80 minutes of play, and twice by double digits. The Old Aztecs scored first, but the Boise, Idaho club responded with a 17-point run. San Diego crept back to within two at 17-15, but Snake River went on another run, taking a 29-15 lead in the 56th minute.
San Diego didn’t fold, though. Prop Sean Lindersmith said the experience of navigating the playoffs all the way to the final four last year helped the Old Aztecs in the closing 20 minutes of regulation Sunday.
“Last year’s trip to the final four just hardened our resolve to want to get back there and show that this club deserves to be in that position again,” he said. “That experience paid off. They got up by two scores, and there was no doubt that we could come back.”
John Leon Guerrero and Richard Dodd touched down in the 67rd and 74th minutes, respectively, and Des Wellington slotted both conversions to draw the Old Aztecs level at full time.
The game, with eighty minutes gone, would continue for another 32, through three full, scoreless overtime periods, before reserve prop Levi Gustafson scored in the 112th minute to send the Old Aztecs through.
Both teams had their possessions in each other’s halves in the first three overtime periods, but desperate defense won out. Lindersmith couldn’t recount the final two tries of regulation or much of the overtime period, but the vision of Gustafson’s try won’t be lost anytime soon.
“It goes my two children first, and then that try and that win for the Old Aztecs as the greatest moments of my life right now,” he said.
“They set up their ruck defense, one man stepped to the right and there was as huge hole right there, and Levi just dove over and put the ball down right in goal, and all hell broke loose and everybody was just celebrating like you couldn’t believe.
“I couldn’t say enough about this game. It was that special of a moment. It only happens once in a life.”
The play of tight fivers Leon Guerrero, Gustafson, Lindersmith, Daylon Teel, Lucas Edwards Junior Lee and Ian Snook was noteworty, as they propelled the Old Aztecs to the final try.
The Old Aztecs take on Wisconsin Rugby Club out of Madison, Wisc. in the semifinals June 2 in Glendale, Colo.