The Temecula Valley High School Golden Bears have done it again, pulling out a last second victory, advancing them to their first CIF Southern Section final game in 26 years. In their CIF-SS Division 7 semifinal game, the Golden Bears, who are the only remaining local team still in the hunt for a CIF title, scored with 10 seconds remaining, defeating West Ranch High School, 31-28.

The game was a back-and-forth wild west showdown for the most part. Early on, with the Wildcats leading 14-7, Temecula Valley linebacker Antonio Olivos intercepted quarterback Walker Eget on the Temecula Valley one-yard line. The Golden Bears went 92 yards on four plays, including a 79-yard pass from senior QB Zach Cutka to Matthew Lindquist. Running back Brody Hughes finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.

With the score knotted up, West Ranch (10-3) would fumble on their next possession and Temecula Valley capitalized when WR Abe Flores hauled in a three-yard pass from Cutka, giving the Golden Bears a 21-14 lead.

On the last play of the half, Temecula Valley kicker Gino Tulimero hit a 29-yard field goal to give Temecula Valley a 24-14 lead.

The Wildcats got back in the game in the third quarter when Eget connected on a four-yard touchdown with receiver Zachary Van Bennekum to make the score 24-21. From there it was a standoff until West Ranch took a 28-24 lead with just over a minute left in the game when running back Reiger Burgin scored on three-yard touchdown run, his third of the game. The Golden Bears then drove the field when QB Zach Cutka connected with Anson Pulsipher for the winning touchdown.

For Temecula Valley head coach, Bert Esposito, the win means a lot, especially since the Golden Bears had two 0-10 seasons before he took over the program.

“We have battled a ton of adversity this year, these guys just have never given up. This is a game about culture and it’s a process. We have the talent, the coaching, the whole thing. Hats off to West Ranch though, they have a very special team and are very well coached,” Esposito said.

Hughes led all rushers, gaining 139 yards on 24 carries. Cutka finished the night 14 for 22 and 264 yards, while Lindquist had four catches for 103 yards.

Temecula Valley (11-2) will travel to play Cypress High School for the CIF Southern Section title at a date and time still to be determined as of the printing of this article.

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