Ramona finished the toughest pre-league schedule in Coach Damon Baldwin’s tenure with a 4-0 record.
They finished in style by beating the highly touted Valhalla Norsemen 37-31 in a shootout.
The home game on Friday was a study in conflicting styles. The Bulldogs like to pound it out and eat up the clock. The Bulldogs ran 70 offensive plays (56 runs and 14 passes). The Dawgs had the ball for more than 31 of the 48 minutes.
Valhalla likes to strike quickly and can do so. The Norsemen ran 16 rushing plays and passed 20 times.
“That is the best quarterback that we have faced since I have been here and we have seen some pretty good QBs,” stated Defensive Coordinator Ed Munyer. “Valhalla’s scheme makes it difficult to get to their quarterback. He (Pete Thomas) moves well and they put him in the shotgun and then drop him back three to five steps. He has the arm to put the ball where he wants it. Our kids played hard the entire game and were well-prepared. Coaches Mike Johnson and Marc Boykins had their kids ready to play.”
Ramona played several players at all of the defensive positions to keep fresh. Nathan Hunt led the Dawgs with nine tackles from his safety position. Linebacker Colton Houlihan had seven tackles, forced a fumble and had a sack. Nate Lutu (5), Hunt, Seth Drake (4), Houlihan, Marcos Ledezma (3), Matt Neylan (3) Marshal Thrasher (2), Trevor Kerchner (3), Christian Scherer (1), Andrew Stemm (4), Dakota Rhodes (2), Stephen Foster (2) and Trevor Michauz (2) all had tackles. Thrasher, Houlihan, Kerchner and Foster had sacks.
Ramona likes to spread the ball around on offense as much as the defense likes to apply pressure with several Dawgs. Four ball carriers rushed for a combined 301 yards. Ryan Morgan (162) and Tyler Jackson (113) had 100 yard games. Erik Ernst (14) and Logan Peterson (19) also rushed for yardage.
Ernst completed nine passes to six different receivers for 110 yards. Drake, Preston Snyder and Bryson Garcia had two grabs each. Jackson Peterson and Kerchner also had catches.
Valhalla scored first and Ramona answered with rushing TDs from Jackson and Morgan to take a 14- 6 lead Valhalla made in a 14-12 game and Colin Murphy kicked a 32 yard field goal to give the Dawgs a 17-12 lead. Valhalla scored with 11 seconds left in the half to take a 18-17 half time lead.
Morgan and Jackson scored rushing TDs in the third period and Vahalla scored on a pass to make it 30-24 Ramona going into the final 12 minutes. And an exciting 12 minutes it was.
Jackson scored a TD after pounding the middle of the Norseman line for fifty hard faught yards but Thomas was not done. He hit Andy Lopez with a TD pass with 19 seconds left to make it 37-31. An onside kick failed and Ramona ran out the clock.
Special teams played a big part in the game. Ramona’s ability to kick a field goal and 4 extra points was the difference in the score. Rocco Hemphill’s punting was also a factor in making the Norsemen play the entire field. Nate Lutu had 88 yards in kickoff returns and Seth Drake had a 44-yard punt return.
“This week we start the second season,” said Coach Damon Baldwin. “Everything that we have done so far has been to get ready for the Valley League. We played teams that have gone to the playoffs (all four) and to the stadium (Poway and Valhalla).
“We have two defending CIF champions in our league (Valley Center and Oceanside) and Orange Glen is entering league play undefeated. Every team in our league has won in the pre-league play so we have some work to do.
“Mt. Carmel is much improved and has a new staff and great athletes. They present problems on offense and defense. They will be the first option team that we will see and they run the same defense that kept our offense from scoring against El Cap. We need the Pound to be filled and noisy and enthusiastic.”
After finishing a tough pre-league schedule, the Dawgs go into a Valley League that is better than it has ever been. The junior varsity plays Mt. Carmel at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The varsity kickoff will be at 7:30. If you are late, you will probably have to sit on the visitor’s side.