By Bill Tamburrino
After El Camino and Ramona shook hands following Ramona’s 24-7 road victory, the Bulldogs gathered for Coach Damon Baldwin’s post game remarks.
Baldwin didn’t say anything at first — he just smiled and wiggled four fingers. The team got the message: they had just beaten another Division I team and were 4-0.
“I am extremely happy with our staff and players. Everyone is all in! We have beaten three Division I powers in a row. That is huge,” said an elated Baldwin.
El Camino has a storied football tradition. They have had hundreds of players go to major colleges and the CFL and NFL, and they have claimed CIF, state and national titles. They are ranked ninth in Division I and 22nd in the CIF after their loss to Ramona.
The Bulldogs started the game off by driving from their own 21 to the El Camino red zone. The drive was stopped when a Marco Cobian pass was tipped and intercepted by the Wildcats. El Camino then drove 61 yards for a score and led 7-0.
From then on, it was all Bulldogs. The Wildcats could only muster 24 more yards total offense during the rest of the game as the Bulldog defense set the tone for a very physical game.
Coach Stephon Pace mixed the defensive fronts, stunts and coverages and had the Wildcat offense confused and frustrated. The Bulldog front shut down the running game and put constant pressure on the El Camino quarterback. How much pressure? Patrick Hastings recorded two sacks. Dallas Dominitz, Travis Kerchner and T-Bone Williams also recorded sacks.
Pace also attacked the Wildcat offense with a plethora of stunts. Linebacker Travis Kerchner had three tackles for losses and defensive back Garrett Binkley had one TFL. The D-line controlled the line of scrimmage.
Nathan Cherek is a key factor on the offensive side of the ball but the senior speed burner also makes his presence felt on defense.
“I only played two plays on defense but I got two interceptions. It was a blast!” said Cherek after his second pick. To say that Pace substitutes wisely is an understatement. His nickel package had two picks and shut down the El Camino passing game on obvious passing downs.
The Bulldog offense relied heavily on its punishing ground game. The Dawgs used ball carriers as they rushed for 192 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per rush. Brandon Gansch led all rushers with 108 yards on 18 carries. Cherek made the most of nine carries as he scored two touchdowns. His longest was a 13-yarder. Cobian scrambled for 13 yards and key first downs. Justin Villagrana and T-Bone Williams rushed for 18 yards apiece.
Cobian completed nine of 16 passes for 69 yards and had several drops. He found Matt Lawler open in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown on a play action pass that completely fooled the El Camino defense. Tanner Williams made several clutch grabs for key first downs as he had five receptions for 47 yards. Binkley and T-Bone Williams also grabbed Cobian aerials.
Tyler Vargas hit on a 33-yard field goal and was perfect on PAT conversions. Brandon Duarte continued to kick the ball deep and/or out of the end zone on kickoffs to pin the Wildcats deep in their own territory.
Baldwin had special praise for two players: “Brandon Gansch and Travis Kerchner played like ‘warriors.’ They had their best games ever as Bulldogs. Both gave phenomenal efforts and production.”
This Friday the No. 2 team in the section, Helix High School, comes up the mountain to take on the Bulldogs. Like El Camino, Helix has a very rich football tradition that has produced CIF, state and national championships. Ramona has beaten Helix once in a CIF playoff game and lost a famous shoot-out with a Reggie Bush/Alex Smith-led Helix team in a CIF playoff game.
Helix travels well so it is recommended that Bulldog fans get to the Dawg Pound early if they want a seat on the Ramona side. The junior varsity kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. and the two varsity teams in the top 10 get under way at 7 p.m.