Number Four, Valley Center, and Number Seven, Ramona, met in a Valley League showdown at Valley Center.
Both teams entered the contest with perfect 7-0 records. Both teams run similar offenses. Both teams run similar defenses. Both teams play physical football.
The game featured tough defenses, spectacular passing plays, explosive special teams plays and vicious hitting on both sides of the ball by both teams. Nobody left early. Few left immediately after the game was over. It was what Friday Night Lights are all about.
In the end, Number Four beat Number Seven by one point, 17-16.
Ramona’s defense knew what it had to do. The Jaguar offense is built around the explosive running of Stanton Upson, who entered the game averaging 177 yards per game on the ground, a 5.59 yards per carry average.
Valley Center doesn’t hide him. He lines up in a one back set and gets the ball play after play. The Bulldogs held him to 89 yards on 33 plays a 2.69 per carry average.
The Bulldogs used a Bear defense, five down linemen. Matt Neylan, Stephen Foster, Dakota Rhodes, Marshal Thrasher, Christian Scherer and John Henry Yorba slugged it out with the big tough Valley Center offensive linemen in the trenches. The line play allowed Colton Houlihan and Trevor Kerchner to roam behind the line and key on Upson. It worked. Valley Center did not have a rushing touchdown.
Ramona’s offense knew what it had to do. Employ its physical running game and keep the Jags off balance with passes. Ryan Morgan entered the game averaging 144 yards a game, 6.63 yards per carry. Morgan rushed for 163 yards against the Jags, 7.40 per tote.
Preston Snyder, Spencer Johnston, Justin Godes, Eric Box, Cody Sweet and James Nicholson slugged it out with the Valley Center linemen in the trenches. Ernst threw for 84 yards going four for nine. He had several key dropped passes.
Valley Center opened the scoring with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Beau Reilly to Matthew Battell after the Dawgs had driven deep into Jag territory and turned the ball over on a fumble.
Ramona got on the scoreboard in the second period when Erik Ernst hit a 29-yard field goal to make the score 7-3, Valley Center.
The Jaguars padded their lead with David Last’s 26-yard field goal with 2:06 left in the half to make it a 10-3 game.
Ramona drove 80 yards in one minute and 43 seconds to tie the score on an Ernst to Seth Drake (three catches for 77 yards) screen pass that went for 43 yards and a TD. Ernst’s PAT tied the game at 10.
Ramona dominated the third period and scored with five seconds left in the third quarter when Tyler Jackson powered into the end zone from six yards out. The PAT missed and Ramona led 16-10.
Valley Center’s return man, Travis Bernard, left the game with an injury, so Upson was inserted in his place. Upson fumbled Bryson Garcia’s kickoff on the 1 yard line and picked it up and ran untouched for a touchdown. Last converted the point after and Ramona’s lead only lasted five seconds as Valley Center led 17-16.
It is ironic that VC scored on a kickoff because Ramona’s kickoff team took advantage of Garcia’s deep kicks and pinned VC down on three occasions. Last did not allow Ramona to return any kickoffs as he kicked every kickoff into the end zone. Rocco Hemphill had a 54-yard punt for the Dawgs.
Ramona’s offense committed three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception. That happens in a hard hitting game. The Dawgs forced one fumble and Nate Lutu intercepted one pass.
“Our defense did a great job of containing Upson,” said Coach Damon Baldwin. “Being able to stop the run will help us in the playoffs. Our offense did well, but we shot ourselves in the foot too many times with mistakes at critical times. As head coach, I have to do a better job of preparing our kids to not make those mistakes.
“The entire team played with a phenomenal effort and great emotion. When there is an effort like that, we as coaches can’t be upset. We are playing the rest of the season for the number two seed in the playoffs. Our goal is to get to the stadium. This team is capable of doing everything we set out to do. We must beat Westview and play Oceanside for a share of the Valley League championship.”
The Bulldogs must beat Westview in their final home game of the season. Tomorrow will be Parent and Guardian Night. The Dawg Pound will be sold out.
Get there early. Varsity kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
If you are not there for the junior varsity game, you will probably have to sit on the visitors side. The JVs tee it up at 4:40.