By Bill Tamburrino
After posting a 56-7 victory against Serra High School on Friday, the Ramona High Bulldogs head to the CIF football championships—the first time since 1973—at Escondido High School’s Wilson Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The Bulldogs will play a familiar foe in the Division III finals: Abraham Lincoln Preparatory High School, better known to all as Lincoln. Kick-off is set for 3:05 p.m.
During Friday’s playoff game at the Dawg Pound, the Bulldogs set the winning tone early.
Serra mounted its only drive of the game on the opening series, which took the Conquistadors to the Red Zone, but they missed a field goal. After that, the only time Serra advanced the ball into Bulldog territory was on a special teams play.
After trading possessions, the Bulldogs scored on a one-play drive. Nathan Cherek took a handoff and ran untouched for a 68-yard touchdown. Tyler Vargas converted the first of his eight PATs and the Dawgs were in complete control and focused on making a bus trip to Escondido.
The score was 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. Ramona scored a school record 35 points in the second quarter to force a running clock in the second half.
On their first possession of the second quarter Ramona marched 55 yards, setting up a 1-yard run by Brandon Gansch. The key play on the drive was a Hunter McHargue pass to Christian Drews that covered 37 yards. McHargue only threw the ball four times. His second completion was a 21-yard strike to Brandon Fitzpatrick.
“We didn’t throw the ball because we were so far ahead, throwing passes might have been construed as bad sportsmanship,” explained Coach Damon Baldwin.
Serra gave Ramona a wake-up call on the ensuing kickoff when Stephon Zackiewicz returned Brandon Duarte’s kickoff 95 yards on a run that touched two sidelines. Zachiewicz was flagged for excessive celebration after the TD and Ramona took advantage of the penalty. Javier Dominguez returned the Conquistador kickoff for a 72-yard touchdown. From then on it was all Ramona. Cherek scored on a 23- yard run to make it a 28-7 game.
Enter the defense. Ramona’s defense held Serra to 99 yards total offense and seven first downs. That was not enough for Coach Stefon Pace’s defense. They wanted to score. A Brawnson Walter sack put the Conquistadors in bad field position. After barely missing on two safeties, the defense scored when Tanner Triplett recovered a fumble in the Serra end zone.
With 6:38 left in the half, Ramona had scored on offense, defense and special teams, and they were not done.
Another Triplett fumble recovery gave the Dawgs the ball in Serra territory, setting up a McHargue 10-yard touchdown run. The Dawgs went into intermission with a 42-7 lead.
The Dawgs scored on a Gansch 9-yard run and took advantage of a Triplett interception to set up the final score. Gansch got the ball to the 2-yard line and Cherek scored to make the final score 56-7.
Baldwin was ecstatic after the game.
“This win is so gratifying because of how close previous teams have played. We had some heartbreakers in the quarterfinals. This team has overcome tough situations and never blinks in adversity. Our theme this season has been ‘Doing Right and Being All In.’”
Baldwin said he told the team at the beginning of the training camp that there was something unique about them.
“This team had what it takes to win in the playoffs,” he said. “There was no complaining on this team—every kid understands his role and gives max effort at doing them for the team. When a player went down, another stepped up and did the job. That is why we are where we are.”
Baldwin also had praise for the Dawgs up front.
“Anytime you rush for over 300 yards and score six offensive touchdowns with a running clock in the second half, the linemen and tight ends and fullbacks have to be unselfish and committed to doing their jobs. Whenever you break a big run it is because the wide receivers are blocking down field. That is what ‘All In’ is all about.”
The same can be said when 15 players make tackles on defense. There were very few solo tackles. Daniel Kemp, Walter and Travis Kerchner all had sacks. Garrett Binkley and T-Bone Williams had six tackle games, and Javier Dominguez was Javier Dominguez.
A team that opened league with two losses and a cross league loss is going to the CIF championship game. So are two of those three teams that beat the Dawgs. Poway and Oceanside are playing for the Division II title and a trip to the state playoffs.
Tickets for the Bulldogs’ CIF championship game are $13 for adults and $9 for students and seniors. Ramona High School plans to sell tickets in advance. Check the Sentinel website for updated information.