By Bill Tamburrino
Bulldogs don’t win dog shows; they win dog fights. And fight they did to win the Palomar League football championship in their game against Torrey Pines.
Torrey Pines runs the wing T offense. They depend on finesse, misdirection and guile. The Bulldogs line up and pound the ball and everybody between them and the end zone. The Bulldogs came from behind to win 24-21 on the road to hand Torrey Pines its only league loss as the Bulldogs remain undefeated in the Palomar League.
“They are done with league play,” Coach Damon Baldwin said of Torrey Pines after the victory. “We still have one big league game left. In order to accomplish our first goal we must beat Westview. We don’t want to share the league title with Torrey Pines. We want it all for ourselves.”
The first half wasn’t pretty for the Bulldogs. It was downright ugly. Ramona fumbled twice deep in Falcon territory and Marco Cobian threw an interception that went for a 30-yard Torrey Pines touchdown. Cobian rebounded and turned in a solid performance as he hit on eight of 11 passes for 124 yards. Torrey Pines then controlled the tempo of the first half and led 21-7 at intermission.
The second half was brutal but not ugly. Four big plays gave the Dawgs the win: two defensive plays, an offensive play and a special teams play. The first defensive play was when Garrett Binkley reversed the momentum of the game on the first play of the third quarter as he intercepted a tipped pass and serpentined 33 yards through the Falcon offense for a touchdown.
Torrey Pines then pinned down the Ramona offense with a coffin corner punt that gave the Dawgs the ball on their five yard line. The big offensive play came when Tanner “T-Bone” Williams took a first down hand-off and bullied his way for 36 yards. Running from the fullback position, Williams ran over everyone in his path and was pushed out of bounds. An unnecessary roughness penalty tacked on more yards and the Bulldogs were on a roll.
The drive ended when Nathan Cherek ran 29 yards off of right tackle for a touchdown. The PAT tied the score at 21. Cherek finished the night as the games leading rusher with 136 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.
The fourth quarter lasted a lifetime. Torrey Pines drove to the Bulldog 35 but the Dawg defense made a stand and took over the ball with 8:39 left in the game. Ramona then drove to the Torrey Pines 32 but was stopped by the Falcon defense with less than four minutes left in the game.
Torrey Pines hit the middle of the Ramona defense for a sizeable gain on first down. Travis Kerchner then made the second big defensive play of the half. The Falcon ball carrier was held up by two Bulldog tacklers and Kerchner stole the ball from him.
“All game long he had tried to get extra yardage by reaching the ball forward. I saw that he was in the grasp of two of our guys so instead of putting down with a hit I stole the ball,” said Ramona’s top candidate for Palomar League defensive player of the year.
With good field position Baldwin elected to pound the ball in the middle of the field to set up a field goal. With 1:04 left on the clock, Tyler Vargas hit a 38-yard field goal to put the Dawgs ahead 24-21 on the special teams play of the half.
“I didn’t hit it cleanly but I got a lot of power into the kick. It was low but it went far enough. If I had hit it perfectly, it would have still been only worth 3 points and that is all that counts,” said an elated Vargas after the game.
With 1:04 left in the game, Torrey Pines was not ready to quit. Ramona Coach Stephon Pace had dialed up enough stunts to keep constant pressure on the Falcon QB and his team played a rubber-band style against the Torrey Pines running game. They stretched and bent but they did not break. With just over a minute, the defense had its work cut out.
Ramona forced three straight incomplete passes and Torrey’s players had a fourth and 10 facing them. The Dawgs appeared to have intercepted a pass for a touchdown when Tanner Williams came up with a big play. However, a pass interference penalty gave Torrey a first down. Again, the Bulldog defense appeared to intercept a pass as Binkley made the pick, only to have another penalty give Torrey the ball on the Bulldog 28 yard line. Then Keyanis Crichlow made the game-saving play. A completion would put the Falcons in field goal range and a chance at tying the game and forcing an overtime. Keyanis Crichlow sat on a deep out route and stepped in front of the intended receiver and made an interception that counted. Keyanis Crichlow then raced down the sideline and was forced out of bounds on the Falcon one yard line.
“I was disappointed at first when I didn’t get into the end zone but when everybody got to me and started celebrating, I figured that the clock had run out and we were champs. I made sure that I didn’t get beat with a double move and kept the receiver in front of me. When I saw the ball in the air it was an easy play,” explained the oldest of the Crichlow brothers.
“Offense, defense, special teams!! Team victory! A lot of people didn’t think we belonged in the Palomar League. We won at least a share of the league championship! That last minute was something else. We had as many fans as they did. Torrey Pines is a very good team and that was a very good game. We refused to quit. We bounced back from adversity on several occasions and won when it counted the most. I hope that our fans travel to Westview next week and cheer us on to an outright championship. These kids are champions in every sense of the word,” said an elated Baldwin after the game.
In a season of big wins, Baldwin and his team came up with the biggest win in school history, so far.
On Friday, Ramona will go for its first outright championship since 1998 when it plays Westview. Varsity kicks off at Westview at 7 p.m. It will be Westview’s Senior Night so there will be a big crowd. The JV game starts at 4 p.m.