Wolfpack Takes Down No. 1 Heritage, 43-40
Faces Another Top Ten Team Next Week
Saturday, September 21st, 2013
Issue 38, Volume 17.
Just a week after beating top-ranked Rancho Verde on a gutsy overtime two-point conversion, the hungry Great Oak Wolfpack knocked off another top-seeded Central Division team. This time their fallen prey was the Central Division #1 Heritage Patriots, by a score of 43-40. Senior safety Anthony Bandong blocked a potential game-tying 17-yard field goal with 2.4 seconds on the clock. Bandong had also made the last tackle of the classic goal line stand that won last year’s matchup for the Wolfpack, 35-32, robbing Heritage of an undefeated regular season record.
"It’s going to be a challenge," said Patriot Head Coach Craig Broach of the matchup with Great Oak, "Their quarterback is a guy who can take it to the house anytime, receiver #80 is unbelievable, they have a couple of running backs that are very fast, and an offensive line that is very physical and very good. I enjoy playing good men like Robbie Robinson and his staff. This will be a great game tonight."
Broach was right.
After the coin toss featuring Great Oak graduate, Cassidy Wolf, recently crowned Miss Teen California and Miss Teen USA, the first half started out as a shootout between the two offenses. Heritage had 307 yards of total offense and Great Oak had 320 in the first half alone. Heritage’s workhorse, senior Limahi Hifo, amassed 170 yards on 16 carries while Great Oak’s junior running back Nick Fisher raced for 158 yards on nine carries before halftime!
Great Oak had first possession and drove from their own 37-yard line down to the Patriot 15 where quarterback Laquan Williams (17/24, 190 yards, two TD’s) hit running back Demetric Felton on a 15-yard bubble pass for an apparent touchdown. The play was called back for a holding penalty. Seven plays later, the Wolfpack settled for a 16-yard field goal by Keita Calhoun to lead 3-0.
Patriots quarterback sophomore Brett Virgil (6/13, 193 yards, one TD) hit Brandon Barker on a swing pass that he ran for 61 yards; a Great Oak penalty on the play made it first-and-goal from the 7-yd line. BYU-commit fullback Sione Takitaki ran it in from the one to take the lead 6-3. The PAT was unsuccessful due to a bad snap.
Great Oak started their next possession on the 35-yard line, but pressure forced Williams to scramble and Heritage’s McKinley Grant picked off Williams’ pass for a 50-yd pick six and a 12-3 lead.
Great Oak responded twenty seconds later with a 50-yd sweep cutback by Fisher to only trail by two, 12-10.
Heritage then drove eighty yards in seven plays to score on Hifo’s 28-yard sweep and extend their lead to 19-10.
Great Oak took the ball from their 33 to the Patriots’ 22 and settled for a 39-yard field goal, 19-13. And that was just the first quarter!
In the second quarter, Heritage again drove eighty yards in seven plays, Hifo finishing the drive with a 38-yard dive up the middle to further extend the Patriots’ lead, 26-13. On the very next play from scrimmage, Fisher sprinted off-tackle for a 70-yard score to keep Great Oak in the hunt, 26-20.
The Great Oak defense forced a three-and-out and after a short punt, the Wolfpack started out on the Patriot 47-yd line. Six plays later Williams found Andrew Molinar (seven catches, 65 yards) on a 13-yard fade pass in the left corner to tie the game at 26-26.
Heritage scored six plays later on a 15-yard off-tackle play by Hifo to retake the lead 33-26. Great Oak then drove from their own 38 with 4:30 left in the half all the way to the Heritage one yard line, but was unable to convert in three downs before time expired.
The second half was a different story as the Wolfpack defense made some adjustments and buckled down, gang-tackling like a pack of ravenous wolves. Behind the leadership of lineman Matt Hobby, linebackers Max Burrow, Alex Gonzalez, Jonathan Hernandez and Arhon Chua, they held the potent Heritage offense to 153 yards, half of their first half total (and only 45 yards rushing). Hifo only managed 27 yards on three carries in the second half.
Heritage was forced to punt on their first possession and Great Oak scored three plays later as Fisher broke a dive play wide open for 63 yards to tie the game at 33.
Ten plays later, the Wolfpack defense forced the Patriots to punt; Barker’s hit on Latrelle Franklin’s fair catch advanced the ball to the 40. But the Wolfpack were unable to advance the ball and they were forced to punt. The fair catch was fumbled by Chris Nile and recovered by Great Oak’s Antonio Escalderon at the nine-yard line. Williams subsequently hit Brandon Presley (six catches, 88 yards) on a ten-yard slant pass for a 40-33 lead.
The Wolfpack defense again forced a three-and out and the Wolfpack gained possession at their own 36 with 9:40 left in the game. Great Oak’s offense marched down the field in ten plays eating up five minutes of the clock before Calhoun hit his third field goal of the night, making the score 43-33 with 4:39 left in the game.
Despite two penalties and a dropped pass, Heritage managed to drive from their 14 to the Great Oak 40; a pass interference call on cornerback Damion Marshall moved the ball down to the 14. Virgil was flushed out of the pocket and threw up a jump ball and wide receiver Reggie Murphy used all of his 6’5" length and jumping ability to come down with an acrobatic one-handed catch in the end zone, bringing the Patriots within three, 43-40 with 2:53 remaining on the clock.
Great Oak used up two minutes of the clock on offense -- and Heritage used up all three of their timeouts -- before being forced to punt from the fifty. Caleb Marquez blocked the punt and Heritage took over with 42.4 seconds left.
Jacob Siemers’ hit on a swing pass knocked the ball loose resulting in a 15-yard loss and tackle by Hernandez and Hobby; an illegal procedure penalty on Heritage was declined. Heritage was guilty of another illegal procedure call on the next play. Virgil then called his own number on a QB draw and raced to the Great Oak 41; a penalty on Marshall for a hit to the head advanced the ball to the 19. Marshall was then flagged for his second pass interference in the end zone making it first-and-ten from the ten with seven seconds on the clock. Marshall then successfully defended a fade pass to the 6’5" Murphy.
With only 2.4 seconds left and the ball on the ten-yard line, Heritage opted for the field goal attempt to tie the game. That’s when Bandong blocked the Tyler Baca field goal attempt. "We needed to make a play and I just came out and made it," said Bandong, "We sent Damien on the outside and me on the inside; whichever one the wing picked up, the other would go." Bandong also had eleven tackles.
"We knew it would be a dogfight to the end," said Fisher, " and we have been working hard all week on execution and it paid off." Fisher ended the night with 24 carries, 289 yards, 3 touchdowns. Hifo had 197 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
Hifo and Fisher each ended with three touchdowns. Hifo scored on runs of 28, 38, and 15 yards. Fisher scored on runs of 50, 70, and 63 yards. Heritage amassed 545 combined yards on the night; Great Oak tallied 574.
"Offense kept us in the game," exclaimed Wolfpack Coach Robinson, "We made some adjustments defensively at halftime, the kids played hard and fought hard and we got some key stops against a very tough team."
"When you come together as a team, you win as a team," said Hobby, who played the second half at defensive end and was a major key to shutting down the Patriots’ power running game.
Great Oak kicker Keita Calhoun accounted for thirteen points, including field goals of 16, 39, and 14 yards.
Heritage takes on Rialto (2-1), #6 in the CIF-SS Eastern Division. They recently beat Summit (Fontana) 28-27. Great Oak faces another challenge at Chino Hills (3-1), #7 in CIF-SS Inland Division. Chino Hills beat Tesoro 30-17, who beat Rancho Verde 35-20.
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