As the 2016 high school football season comes to an end, not one, but two local teams find themselves playing in the final game of the season. Temecula’s Rancho Christian Eagles (11-2) continue to ride the success from their regular season along with the Murrieta Valley Nighthawks (11-2) as both teams look to end their storybook seasons victoriously.
After claiming their first ever South Valley League Championship this season, the Eagles made it through the semifinals with a 28-21 win over Godinez High School and went on to face South El Monte (11-2) in the semifinals of the Division 13 bracket Friday, Nov. 25.
It would be Rancho Christian’s second half performance that was the key difference as they defeated South El Monte 42-28 to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 13 Championship game Friday, Dec. 2. The two teams fought to a 14-14 tie as they headed to the lockeroom at halftime. The Eagles jumped ahead 21-14 on the second play of the third quarter as junior QB, Jaden Schieberl, scored on a 69-yard run, which was his third touchdown of the night. Sophomore Malosi Napoleon would score on the Eagles next possession, running the ball in from 30 yards out.
South El Monte cut the lead to a single TD on a quarterback keeper play, but Rancho Christian drove right back down the field with Schieberl scoring his fourth and final touchdown of the game on a 6-yard run with 9:30 left in the game. Sophomore Jojo Saatzer came up a clutch interception that he ran back 20-yards and Napoleon turned out the lights on South El Monte with an 8-yard run to put the game away 42-21.
South El Monte’s QB, Daniel Olmos would get the final score on a late fourth quarter run. He completed 10 of his 14 passes for 111 yards and ran for 69 more. Running back, Sal Tovar ended up running for 145 yards on 22 carries, caught two passes for 22 yards and had a TD.
Schieberl rushed for 236 yards on 15 carries for Rancho Christian and Napoleon added another 110 yards with his 14 touches. Junior place kicker Emma Baker was a perfect 6 for 6 in her PAT attempts.
Rancho Christian will be home Saturday, Dec. 3, to face Santa Ana. The Undefeated Saints (13-0), champions of the Golden West League, are back in a CIF Final for the first time since 1986. Coach Charlie TeGantvoort’s team has scored over 400 points while barely allowing 150. QB Damien Macias and RB Jorge Briseno lead the oﬀense while Kevin Cea anchors the strong defense. Santa Ana seeks the schools seventh CIF title. Rancho Christian arrives at its first CIF final game. The Eagles, champions of the South Valley League, have won eight games in a row, scoring over 460 points and barely allowed 250. The Eagles rushing attack has combined for over 45 TDs, while Nicholas Alvarez has 13.5 sacks for a team nearing 50 total sacks on the season. Rancho Christian looks to win the programs first CIF title.
Before the Eagles take on Santa Ana, all eyes will be on the Murrieta Valley Nighthawks Friday, Dec. 2. The Nighthawks, who have taken the old adage of a clean slate in the playoffs to heart, exploded for nine touchdowns and gained over 700 yards en route to a 63-42 victory over La Habra in their Division 2 semifinal playoff game Friday, Nov. 25.
The Nighthawks, with their well-balanced attack, are averaging 560.3 yards per game with over 7,200 total yards on the season: 3,691 on the ground and 3,593 in the air. They have scored 96 TDs and average an astounding 50.8 points per game.
Against La Habra sophomore quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who has not thrown an interception in the past seven games (147 passes), threw five touchdowns and completed a season best 23 of 27 passes for 319 yards. Bachmeier has completed 76.3 percent of his passes on the season for 3,558 yards and 43 TDs.
Senior running back Lika Palmer got the job done on the ground gaining 272 yards on 38 carries and scored four rushing touchdowns and had another one via airmail. Palmer has rushed for 2,259 yards on the season, averaging 173.8 yards per game and 9.1 yards per carry. He has 28 rushing TDs, two kickoff return TDs and one receiving TD.
The Nighthawks actually trailed twice in the game. The Highlanders scored first and the two teams went back and forth scoring touchdowns through second quarter when the Nighthawks finally pulled away taking a 42-28 score into halftime. Murrieta Valley’s defense made several big plays to ensure their victory, but did give up six TDs and almost 500 yards against La Habra, though they would outscore the Highlanders 21-14 in the final half to go on to win, 63-42.
“We came up with big stops when we needed to, but we need play better defense in big games like this,” said Murrieta Valley Coach Sean Cue. “We have some room for error with an offense like ours, but if we can fix the little mistakes we made as we head into next week, all should be good.”
Junior Marquis Spiker (1,494 yards and 23 TDs on the season) had six catches for three touchdowns and 79 yards against La Habra, senior Ryan Mascarenas caught the other TD pass from Bachmeier and good news came earlier this week for senior and team captain, Maurice Bell, who has been cleared to play. Bell had to leave the game after catching three passes due to what was thought to be a torn meniscus, but reports indicate there is no tear and he will be a game time decision, according to Coach Pete Duffy.
In the playoffs, the Nighthawks have scored 190 points in three games, averaging 63.3 pts per game and have totaled 1,846 yards, averaging over 615 yards: 367 rushing and 267 passing per game.
Murrieta Valley will be home Friday, Dec. 2, to host San Clemente in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Championship game and one program will finally ascend to the mountaintop. San Clemente arrives at its third straight CIF title game after falling just short the previous two years. The Tritons come in at 10-3 and the runner ups of the South Coast league after beating the top seeded Heritage Patriots in the second round. Coach Jaime Ortiz leads a well-balanced squad that has been on a roll during the playoff s. QB Jack Sears has passed for 2033 yards and 31 TDs while rushing for almost 10 TDs while RB Brandon Reavens is responsible for 21 total touchdowns. On defense the Tritons have forced over 20 turnovers and 23 sacks. The Tritons are back in a CIF final and hungry for their first CIF title, but so is Murrieta Valley as the Nighthawks look to complete their storybook season with the programs first CIF title. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Article contributions made by Valley News General Sales Manager and sports writer, Paul Bandong.