The 2021-2022 prep football season is underway and the push to complete a full season has begun. Rising numbers in the new COVID-19 Delta variant are already causing teams in the CIF Southern Section to have to cancel games, but nothing has been reported locally thus far. In fact, it appears a good number of local teams took part in Week Zero, which is the first week a team can play a game that counts toward their season record. Some teams like to take advantage of Week Zero as it gives them a bye week at some point throughout their regular season. Most use it right before they go into their league matchups, to give players time to recover from their first few games.

Linfield Christian got things going in a preseason Thursday night road game, Aug. 19, where a late rally almost put them in the win column. The Loara Saxons won 20-18 after allowing 18 consecutive points in the final 14 minutes of the game. Loara running back and linebacker Cesar Vazquez was the player of the game. He rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns on offense, had two sacks, blocked a punt, and returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown. The Saxons led by 20 points when Vazquez exited the game with an apparent shoulder injury. Linfield Christian (0-1) figured out Loara’s defense when Vazquez left the game. Freshman quarterback Thomas Paschal, who entered the game when starting quarterback Jonathan Aguilera also left with an injury in the second quarter, threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Marcus Dylke to cut the lead to 14.

The Lions’ Braylen Brunson-McDowell rushed for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Paschal threw a touchdown pass, again to Dylke, in the final minutes of the game. On a 2-point conversion attempt that could have tied the score, Paschal’s pass was deflected. Paschal completed 12 of 22 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Dylke caught 10 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Linfield Christian will return to Orange County to play Pacifica at Bolsa Grande High Thursday, Aug. 26.

Chaparral’s Hunter Roddy (33) stiff arms a Mission Hills defender during the Pumas season opener at Chaparral High School. Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

The Chaparral Pumas and Vista Murrieta Broncos had a lot of eyes on them in their home openers under the Friday night lights. Chaparral opened against the Mission Hills Grizzlies, who trailed 13-10 at the half. Puma QB, Caron Tyler threw for a TD and ran one in himself. Wide receiver Stacey Dobbins, who had seven catches for 61 yards, hauled in the only touchdown pass. Mission Hills QB Gunnar Hensley hit Matt Martin with a 10-yard scoring pass and ran 5 yards for another score. Jaiden Letua had a 4-yard TD run, but it was Johnny Reyes that put the game out of reach with a 49-yard FG. Peter Eyabi had 3 sacks for the Grizzlies.

At Vista Murrieta High School, Norco’s offense scored a touchdown on its first four possessions and their defense made sure the early lead never got away as Norco defeated Vista Murrieta 42-26. Vista Murrieta’s opening drive showed promise early, but the Broncos had to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Luke Matthews. The night belonged to Norco quarterback Kyle Crum who threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 114 yards on 10 carries.

Vista Murrieta’s Jack Pederson (98) beats a Norco defender to catch a touchdown pass on the last play for the first half in the Broncos season opener. Valley News/Jerry Soifer photo

Gavin Galzote helped big time in the first half for the Broncos when he returned a kickoff 40 yards to give Vista Murrieta possession at midfield and then scampered down the field on a 52-yard run to the end zone on the very next play. The Broncos scored the final nine points of the opening half to cut the deficit in half and take some momentum into the locker room. Matthews drilled a 27-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining on the clock, and Brady Jones found Jack Pedersen for a 10-yard touchdown on the final play of the second quarter. The Cougars would only allow Vista Murrieta to score seven points in the second half and those came in the final minute.

Great Oak and Temecula Valley also played at home. The Wolfpack took on Carlsbad who has won 5 straight season openers, outscoring its opponents 209-41. Sophomore QB Julian Sayin completed 17 of 26 passes for 352 yards and 3 TDs to lead the charge past Great Oak, 35-14.

The Golden Bears defeated Valley View, 57-0. Temecula Valley scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions, including their first four drives to take a 42-0 halftime lead. The Golden Bears defense held the Valley View offense to minus 22 yards in total offense, one first down, and only allowed them to complete one pass for minus 2 yards. The defense recorded 12 plays for negative yardage, led by Jake Sinz, who also had two sacks. Senior Ben Botelho finished the night completing 11 of 18 passes for 177 yards, while Ryan Sanchez added 56 yards on nine carries. Sam Gbatu led all receivers, hauling in four passes for 58 yards.

Other Week Zero prep football scores from around the valley include:

FRIDAY, AUG. 20

La Sierra 27, Nuview Bridge 0

Lakeside 32, Arlington 24

Perris 28, Centennial/Compton 8

Elsinore 46, Vista del Lago 7

Escondido Charter 55, Hamilton 0

Temescal Canyon 41, La Jolla Country Day 33

Vista 46, Paloma Valley 8

Heritage 42, Corona Santiago 35

Beaumont 34, Orange Vista 30

Rancho Mirage 12, Hemet 0

Santa Rosa Academy 36, Desert Christian/BD 26

University City 48, Fallbrook 6

SATURDAY, AUG. 21

San Jacinto 48, Redlands East Valley 21

El Cajon Christian 50, Rancho Christian 14

Western Christian 54, Temecula Prep 0

Photos and sports scores/stats/highlights can be submitted to sports@reedermedia.com. Stats, standings, results provided by MaxPreps, local ADs, fans of the game and the Valley News Sports Department.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.