By Bill Tamburrino
The Ramona Bulldogs got off to a bad start against Lincoln High School and could not overcome a 21-0 first quarter deficit, and lost to the Hornets 42-14 at Escondido High School in the Division III CIF Championship game on Saturday.
Nothing went right for the Bulldogs in the opening period of play. Special teams, offense and defense all got off to a bad start. The Bulldog offense went three and out on their first five possessions and lost the ball to an interception and a fumble all in the first quarter. The Bulldog punt team gave the Hornets excellent field position in Bulldog territory on the first two possessions of the game. Both times the Hornets scored.
When things started to go right for the Dawg offense, something went wrong. Nathan Cherek carried the ball to the Hornet 22-yard line when it appeared that he was tackled. The ball came loose when Cherek hit the turf and the line judge ruled it a fumble. Freddy Melifonwu returned the loose ball 78 yards to give the Hornets a 21-0 lead that Ramona could not overcome.
However, as Timmy Plough a former Bulldog signal caller and current UC Davis offensive coordinator predicted on the sidelines, the Bulldogs refused to give up. Plough was one of several college coaches recruiting and scouting at the CIF finals.
Ramona matched the Hornets statistically for the final three periods. The Bulldog defense forced five Lincoln fumbles and recovered four of them. Tanner Triplett intercepted his second pass in two games. Brawnson Walter had a great day. The senior linebacker had 10 tackles and one sack. Travis Kerchner was in on eight tackles. Also getting credit for tackles were Daniel Kemp (5), T-Bone Williams (4), Javier Dominguez (4), Brandon Kelderman (4), Garrett Binkley (4), Zach Berg (2), Brandon Fitzpatrick (2), Anthony Moreno (1), Keyshaun Crichlow (1) Patrick Hastings (1) and Matt Lawler (1). The Bulldog secondary limited Lincoln’s vaunted passing game to four complete passes and 46 yards.
After the bad start, the Bulldog offense rolled up 361 total yards. Hunter McHargue completed 10 passes for one touchdown and 164 yards. The o-line opened holes for the Bulldog backs to run for 198 yards.
Cherek rushed for 181 yards on 24 carries and scored a touchdown on a 45-yard pass, and had three catches for 85 yards. Middle linebacker T-Bone Williams made the most of one carry as he scored on a 2-yard run. Brandon Gansch rushed for 32 yards and Chad Miller-Laduke added 12 yards to the offense. Binkley led the Dawgs with four catches for 31 yards. Tanner Williams, Fitzpatrick and Lawler also had catches in the championship game. Tyler Vargas had two PAT conversions.
Fitzpatrick was awarded the prestigious patch for exemplary sportsmanship by the CIF.
“How about that crowd?!” Coach Damon Baldwin had to say when asked about the community support that his Bulldogs received.
“Our 16 seniors set the tone in the off season and provided leadership and set a great example for the underclassmen to follow,” said Baldwin. “Losing hurts but I am very proud to have had the opportunity to coach this group of young men. My staff works hard all season long and it paid off. Anybody who was at the game knows that this team never quits and their parents and fans never quit on them. Ramona is a great community.”
The CIF championship game is more of an event than a contest. It is a once in a lifetime event for most and a lifelong memory for all who participate.
Baldwin and his staff and players gave this community a season and a day to remember for the rest of their lives.