Ten local Valley teams began the post-season playoffs; seven survived the first round. Three made it into the semi-finals, including a long-shot Cinderella story – Paloma Valley. Now only one team remains – Vista Murrieta, the top-seeded team in the Inland Division – and they have been here four years in a row.
Broncos stomp Cougars, 34-0
A week after dominating Norco 34-6, the #1-seed Vista Murrieta Broncos (12-0) stomped the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars (10-2) by a score of 34-0 to advance into the Championship round of the CIF-SS Inland Division playoffs. But it was not as easy as the score shows.
It was a slow start for both teams with the first quarter ending in a scoreless tie. The Cougars’ defense did a great job containing the Broncos’ running game and limiting the passing attack. Two minutes into the second quarter, however, Broncos’ QB Nick Stevens capped off a drive as he dove one yard into the endzone for a 7-0 lead. It was the only score until deep in the third quarter. Rancho Cucamonga’s offense was able to move the ball and put together a drive but missed a field goal at the end of the first half.
In the third quarter, the Cougars faked a punt and Alani Latu ran 51 yards down to the 8-yd line. The Broncos’ Su’a Cravens stopped running back Tahaan Goodman twice, the second time for a one-yard loss at the two. Linebacker Bryce Smith stopped Goodman on the Cougars’ final attempt at the one. The goal-line stand proved to be a momentum changer.
Stevens (10-of-20, 114 yards, 2 TDs) drove the Broncos’ offense 99 yards in ten plays finishing with a 15-yd pass to Jamie Nunley for the score with 1:52 left in the third quarter. Three-and-a half minutes later, Stevens (10-of-20, 114 yds) hit Tyler Cook with a 14-yd touchdown pass.
With less than ten minutes left in the game, Rancho Cucamonga put in back-up quarterback Milo Avina after starting back Adam Friederichsen went 1-for-7. Avina was promptly intercepted by the Broncos’ Phillip Jones-Ward for a 24-yd “pick six” to make the score 28-0. With less than three minutes left in the game, Broncos’ running back Kishawn Holmes (six carries, 113 yards) broke free for an 84-yd touchdown run.
The Vista Murrieta defense limited the Cougars’ 1700-yd passer Adam Friederichsen to just 90 yards passing on 9-of-18 attempts. He was sacked seven times. Avina was sacked twice. Curtis Bolton recorded three sacks; the first sack set up the Broncos’ first score. Ricardo Mermea had two sacks. USC-bound Cravens saw limited playing time, but made the most of it on both sides of the ball. He recorded 28 yards rushing on three carries (including a key first down), two blocked punts, a sack and numerous tackles. Sophomore Colin Baker caught three passes for 44 yards.
The Broncos (13-0) face the Centennial Huskies (12-1) for the third year in a row in the title game. The Huskies defeated Upland 46-36 in the Semi-finals round.
Patriots stopped by Cats, 13-7
The Heritage Patriots (11-2) lost the defensive battle and were stopped by the Kaiser Cats (12-1) in the semifinals game 13-7. Heritage had beaten Kaiser last year 42-14 in Fontana, eliminating them in the quarterfinals round. The rematch between the two bruising running teams was reminiscent of the old “five yards and a cloud of dust” that characterized the early days of football. Two controversial referee calls negated Heritage touchdowns in the final quarter.
Heritage had stopped Kaiser on their first possession forcing them to punt on fourth-and-seven from midfield; but Kaiser faked the punt and short-snapped it to QB Raymond Padilla (14 carries, 105 yds) who cut through a hole on the right side and raced down the sideline 50 yards for the first score with only four minutes elapsed in the game. Kaiser led until mid-way through the second quarter when Heritage’s Marvin Hifo capped off a ten-play 80-yard drive with a one-yard dive to tie the game at 7.
Heritage received the ball to start the second half but Kaiser stopped them in three plays and then proceeded to eat up yardage and time with a hard-fought 16-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a three-yard touchdown by senior Marquette Washington (27 carries, 105 yards) to break the tie, 13-7, at the 11:53 mark in the fourth quarter.
Heritage QB Mat Bradshaw’s (5-of-11, 57 yards) pass intended for Jacori Pace was intercepted at the Kaiser 29 with 2:34 left in the game, ending a promising drive; but Kaiser’s Washington fumbled on the next play and Levi Davison recovered the ball for Heritage returning it for a touchdown. The referees negated the touchdown calling him down at the 27-yd line after the recovery. Still hope was revived in the stands. Heritage reached the Kaiser 22 with 1:25 left in the game when Bradshaw’s fourth down pass was knocked down in the end zone. Kaiser’s defense had prevailed and the Cats took over on downs.
There was one more moment of excitement: Kaiser ball, third down from the 27 with 1:10 left. Heritage lineman Nick Avne held up Kaiser’s QB Padilla on a QB keeper and linebacker Brandon Howard stripped the ball, emerged from the pile on the field and sprinted into the end zone with the football. An extended officials’ conference ruled that the ball carrier had been downed by contact, negating the second apparent Patriots’ touchdown in two minutes and deflating the crowd’s spirits once again.
The tough Kaiser defense held the potent Heritage offense to 99 yards on 28 carries. The Patriots had been averaging 393 yards and 39 points in their first two playoff rounds and had scored over 30 points in 11 games this season. Jamal Morrow, the Sunbelt League’s leading rusher averaging 231 yds/gm, had just 48 yards on 11 attempts. He had been fighting a knee injury the last four games. Sione Takitaki also had 48 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Kaiser rushed for 200 yards on 46 carries. They go on to the title game to face Rancho Verde (10-3) who beat Paloma Valley 35-28.
Mustangs end Wildcats’
Cinderella hopes, 35-28
The Paloma Valley Wildcats’ (9-4) Cinderella hopes were dashed by the Rancho Verde Mustangs 35-28 in the CIF-SS Central Division semifinals round, one game away from the school’s first championship playoff in 13 years.
The at-large entry with a 2-3 Sunbelt League record drew #1-seed Summit who had eliminated them in the first round last year 26-18 and returned the favor with a 22-3 upset that rattled the Central Division. The Wildcats then promptly demolished the Colony Titans, Mt Baldy League runner-ups, 56-14, on the way to this match-up with #4-seed and defending CIF-SS Central Division Champion Rancho Verde. Despite out-gaining the Mustangs 455 yards to 292, an interception return, a kickoff return and a negated touchdown made the difference in the game.
The Wildcats drew first blood with David Solis (31 carries, 200 yards) scoring from 20 yards out to cap the opening drive of 59 yards in seven plays. The Mustangs answered with a drive of their own which ended two minutes into the second quarter with a two-yd score by running back Cedric Peterson (9 carries, 62 yards). A missed PAT attempt kept the Wildcats in the lead 7-6.
Two minutes later, however, Wildcats” QB Brent Boehm (14-of-23, 174 yards) attempted a screen pass that was intercepted by the Mustangs’ defensive end Tyshawn Durgin who returned it 33 yards for the score. Safety-converted-to-QB Malcolm Hill left the game with an ankle injury and former starting QB Sherrion Jones (returning from a broken leg suffered in a pre-season game in Las Vegas) connected with Washington-bound Demore’ea Stringfellow (six catches, 102 yards) for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-7 Rancho Verde at halftime.
The Mustangs received the ball to start the second half and Jones promptly hit Stringfellow in stride for a 65-yard score and a 21-7 lead. The Wildcats answered with a five-minute drive culminating in a Boehm (14 carries, 72 yards) one-yd run to make the score 21-14 at the end of the third.
Peterson scored again from 29 yards out to extend the Mustang lead to 28-14. Three minutes later, the Wildcats were on the scoreboard again on an eight-yard run by Solis, 28-21. Peterson, however, returned the ensuing kick-off 85 yards for a score and a 35-21 Rancho Verde lead.
A Boehm-to-Solis exchange fumble on the four-yard line halfway through the fourth quarter killed a catch-up Wildcats drive. On the Wildcats’ subsequent drive, Boehm did connect with CJ Parker (3 catches 78 yards) on a 23-yd TD reception with four minutes left to cut the deficit to seven points. The Wildcats defense forced a Mustangs punt and Boehm went back to work. The game-tying drive and their Cinderella hopes ended on a third-and-three interception at the Rancho Verde 29.
Defensive standout Charlie Wallace added two more sacks to his league-leading total of 16.
Congratulations to all ten Valley teams who made it to the playoffs and good luck to Vista Murrieta this Friday!