By Bill Tamburrino
Every head football coach will tell you that special teams are important. Ramona High's Bulldogs showed just how important special teams can be in their win over Orange Glen High School on Sept. 28.
The job of special teams coordinator usually goes to an up-and-coming coach working his way to a head coaching job before he becomes an offensive coordinator and/or a defensive coordinator.
Coach Damon Baldwin did things a little differently this year. He gave the job of special teams coordinator to a coach who has already been a defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator and a head coach.
Last Friday that assignment paid big dividends as Coach Bill Clark’s special teams scored three touchdowns that proved to be the difference against Orange Glen in a 45-34 non-league victory.
It was fitting on a night dedicated to the memory of former Bulldog Ryan Morgan that speed was the major factor in winning the game. The 21-year-old, who died in a motorcycle accident in June, was not only a star athlete in football but also excelled in track. Pre-game ceremonies were handled with class and dignity and the Ramona High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps showed why they are one of the nation’s finest units.
Clark’s charges started the game with a bang. Nathan Cherek opened the contest with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Cherek bobbled (called a muff in football parlance) the ball as it was a squib kick.
“When I got control and looked up I couldn’t believe the hole that I saw in front of me. I had a clear shot at the end zone,” he said.
Tyler Vargas’ conversion was good and the Dawgs led 7-0.
Orange Glen answered with an 87-yard touchdown play of their own and tied the score on their first play from scrimmage to tie the score at seven.
After trading possessions, the Bulldog defense forced OG to punt. Javier Dominquez let the punt bounce and bobbled the ball slightly, getting the same results as Cherek. Dominguez got a vicious block from Tanner Williams that took out two Patriot would-be tacklers and then went 41 yards for a touchdown. The PAT failed and Ramona led 13-7.
OG answered with a score and took the lead at 14-13.
The lead only lasted for 14 seconds. Cherek again bobbled the ball slightly on the ensuing kickoff and serpentined 91 yards for a TD to give Ramona a 19-14 lead that they would not relinquish. Cherek was named the Special Teams Player of the game.
Hunter McHargue had a good game at quarterback. The senior signal caller hit on seven of 10 attempts for 116 yards and two touchdown passes. He also ran for a touchdown.
Anthony Moreno, Daniel Kemp, Josh Allen, Patrick Hastings and William Rieve all contributed to the win. The Bulldog offensive line protected McHargue and led the way for two Bulldog running backs to rack up 100-yard performances. Brandon Gansch ran for 123 yards and Cherek rambled for 133 yards.
Chad Miller-Laduke, Christian Drews and Matt Lawler also blocked well for the running game. Patrick Hastings was named Lineman of the Game for his efforts on both sides of the ball. He graded a 91 percent on offense and had another good day at defensive line.
The Bulldog receiver corps blocked well on the running and six receivers grabbed McHargue tosses. Brandon Fitzpatrick had two receptions. Drews and Kevin Hagan both had touchdown receptions. Lawler, Garrett Binkley and Cherek also had catches in the win.
Ramona only ran 39 plays on offense, partly because Clark’s special teams scored 22 points— counting PAT, and partly because Orange Glen has improved and has one of the best offensive weapons in the county—Austin Early.
Early passed for 212 yards, ran for 123 yards, and kept the defense honest by switching from passing to handing off to Roger Rickman, to keeping the ball himself.
The Bulldog defense was led by Travis Kerchner. The junior safety had eight tackles, four assists, one sack and two tackles for losses. Kerchner was the Defensive Player of the Week.
Tanner Williams made six tackles and had an assist. T-Bone Williams was in on eight tackles. Kemp, Zach Berg, Hastings, Cameron Coplen, Drews, Grady Vasquez, Dominguez, Binkley and Brandon Kelderman also had multi-tackle games. Howard Peel and Cherek also made tackles. Teddy Schenck was named the Scout Team Player of the Week.
It was a good week for the lower division teams.
The freshman team won its third game of the season, improving its record to 3-2, by beating Orange Glen 28-7. Connor Anderson caught two Marco Cobian passes as the first string offense only player half of the game. Coach Mike Schuler had praise for Erik Schmidt for being able to move from the defensive backfield to linebacker, and for playing well on offense. Schuler also was happy with the improvement of his special teams play, especially his PAT/field goal unit.
“We hit all four extra points and just missed a 31-yard field goal,” he said.
The junior varsity Bulldogs started off their 43-0 route of Orange Glen with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Wyatt Scott. The Dawg defense also scored in the game on a 61-yard scoop and score by Justin Martinez. Running back Michael Camp made the most of his three carries as he rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Towns had 11 carries and scored his first TD of his career. Lowen Hobbs made the defensive play of the game with an interception that preserved the shutout. The junior varsity’s record is 3-1-1 as it enters league play.
This week Ramona will travel to Rancho Bernardo to face the Broncos in the opening game of Palomar League play. The varsity will kick off at 7 p.m.