Bell-Jeff (5-4, 1-2 in league) trailed, 7-6, for most of the game.
Pinned back at its own 1-yard line midway through the third quarter, the Guards marched down the field all the way to Salesian’s 28-yard line.
After surviving one fourth-down situation along the way, the Guards came up short a second time, as quarterback Brendan Alferez’s pass on fourth and 12 was incomplete.
“We threw to a guy that was covered, and we had a guy open, and we worked on it all week,” said a frustrated Aguirre.
Because the Guards primarily ran the ball on the drive, Salesian took over with just 5:53 to play.
The Mustangs (3-6, 3-0) took a 10-6 lead when Miguel Rodriguez hit a 29-yard field goal with 1:15 left.
Needing a touchdown for a comeback, Bell-Jeff was unable to get its passing game going, and Salesian took over on downs at the Guards’ 6-yard line with less than a minute left in the contest.
Salesian capitalized, as Tyquian Ballard scored on the first play from scrimmage on the drive, making it 16-6 with 24.7 seconds left. Rodriguez’s extra point made it 17-6.
Bell-Jeff, which suited up 22 players compared to Salesian’s 50, took the early lead.
Micah Shirley scored on a 38-yard run with 8:54 left in the first quarter. The extra point by David Bustillos was ruled wide by a foot.
That extra point was the difference between the two teams for more than half of the game.
Shirley finished with 133 yards in 17 carries.
Bell-Jeff’s Abdo Hajj had 90 yards in 18 carries.
Salesian took the lead at the 4:42 mark of the first quarter when Andrew Romero scored on a two-yard run. Rodriguez added the extra point.
Bell-Jeff nearly scored a second touchdown. Hajj broke loose through the Salesian defense only to lose the ball at the Mustangs’ 28-yard line, as he was ruled to have fumbled before hitting the ground, which the Guards’ coaching staff felt forced the fumble.
The Guards conclude the regular season next Friday on the road against Long Beach St. Anthony.