By BILL TAMBURRINO
The statistics were not close and the final score was not close, but the Ramona Bulldogs played the Valley Center Jaguars very closely on the road before losing 38-24 in the final minutes of the football game.
“We did not play with urgency at critical times,” Coach Damon Baldwin told his team after the Friday night game. “We could have won that game, but we gave it away. We are a one and four team and we have Poway, Oceanside, Torrey Pines,
Rancho Bernardo and Westview coming up after a bye. We can beat any of those teams if we quit making mistakes and start making plays.”
Ramona got an excellent kickoff return from Nathan Cherek, who had a great night on special teams as he had over 110 yards in kickoff returns. The Dawgs then drove down the field to score the initial touchdown as Kirk Kaliszewski went the final three yards. Ali Aparicio added the PAT and the Dawgs led 7-0.
The Dawgs lost starting quarterback Josh Mahaffey on the drive when the senior signal starter pulled up with a hamstring injury on a running play.
Valley Center then drove 81 yards on two plays as Michael McInerny took a Ryan Kleiman pass for 79 yards. The PAT failed and Ramona led 7-6. Valley Center then scored to make it a 13-7 game.
Back came the Dawgs. Keyanis Crichlow grabbed a Hunter McHargue pass and rambled 62 yards for a score. Aparicio added the PAT and the Dawgs led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the second period. Valley Center scored first and Ramona drove after a Cherek kickoff return to score a 9-yard Kaliszewski TD with 1:11 on the clock. Valley Center then drove and kicked a field goal with nine ticks left in the first half to lead 23-21 at intermission.
After a scoreless third quarter, Ramona took a 24-23 lead with a 38-yard Aparicio field goal with 8:53 left in the game. Valley Center then got some big breaks and some questionable calls. Ramona’s defense appeared to stop the Jaguars twice, but a pass interference call and a great play set up the winning points for the Jaguars.
The winning touchdown came after Kleiman had to scramble on a fourth and 12 play and put up a pass for grabs. Valley Center’s Cody Gearhart made the grab and Valley Center drove in for a score with 4:05 left. After a successful 2-point conversion, the Jags led 31-24.
Ramona still had a chance to win, but the Dawgs turned the ball over to the Jags. Valley Center then scored on a 66-yard TD to make the final score 38-24.
Valley Center had the statistical edge in the game. They had 435 yards of total offense to the Dawgs’ 199. The Jags completed 12 passes. McHargue completed three passes: the 62-yard TD to Crichlow, a 23-yard pass to Dallas Jansen and a 16-yarder to Jason Laws.
Ramona’s defense recorded an interception, recovered a fumble and a sack. Brawnson Walter stripped a VC ball carrier and recovered the fumble in the third period. Javier Dominguez intercepted a third period pass. Walter also registered a sack.
Ramona got some outstanding defensive efforts. Elias Jauregui led all tacklers with nine. Dominguez (5), Alec Ghareeb (6), Kaliszewski (7), Walter (6), Daniel Kemp (7) all made key tackles. Travis Kerchner, Chandler Vasquez, Tanner “T-Bone” Williams, Patrick Hastings, Jureall Simmons and Daniel VanTol all had multiple tackle games.
The Dawgs have a week off before, as Coach Baldwin said, they get to the tough part of the season.
The Dawgs playoff hopes rely on making some big upsets.