Heritage Patriots Win First CIF Championship!
Rancho Verde Suffers Third Title Game Loss in Four Years
Sunday, December 8th, 2013
Issue 49, Volume 17.
"They’re very good and very balanced offensively," said Heritage head coach Kraig Broach about Rancho Verde, "They have a Division 1 quarterback, a great running back, and a huge offensive line with good receivers. They can do everything and are very dangerous. Their defense is very stout and physical. It should be quite a match-up."
"They’re big, fast, physical," said Rancho Verde coach Pete Duffy describing Heritage before the game, "excellent, excellent team that has run through everybody. We hope to slow them down, keep it close and win it at the end."
In the beginning, Rancho Verde appeared to have the game under control, dominating the opening period. The score was 20-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Mustangs took the opening drive all the way to the end zone in just over three minutes with Keshawn Slaughter taking it in from the one-yard line.
The Rancho Verde defense forced a three-and-out, but a shanked Heritage punt gave the Mustangs great field position at the Patriots’ 38-yard line. One minute later, Rancho Verde QB Sheriron Jones hit Kierre Williams in the middle of the field for a 19-yd score and a 12-0 lead. Jones’ QB keeper failed to convert the two-point PAT.
Heritage drove from their 33–yd line with a heavy dose of Hifo runs, including a 45-yd off-tackle play, down to the Mustang six-yard line. A loss of three, a holding penalty and a batted down pass, forced a field goal attempt by Kyle Hernandez that was no good.
Rancho Verde drove the length of the field, helped by a Heritage pass interference penalty, with Jones connecting on a second TD pass, this time to Marcus Young. Slaughter’s dive play for the two-point conversion made the score 20-0.
In the second quarter, however, Hifo scored on a one-yard dive; cornerback Matt Palmer intercepted Jones’ pass at the 35. It was Palmer’s tenth interception of the season; six have been in the playoffs. Sione Takitaki’s 15-yard run set up sophomore QB Brett Virgil’s 49-yard keeper for Heritage’s second score in less than two minutes, 20-14.
Rancho Verde drove from the 28 with four consecutive first downs (one on another Heritage personal foul penalty) and Jones scored on a keeper to once again take a two-score lead, 26-14. The two-point rollout pass conversion attempt failed.
After the break, Patriots’ tight end Evan Rodriguez caught two passes: one for fourteen yards and a first down, the other for 18 yards and a touchdown to bring Heritage within one score, 26-21.
A personal foul on the Mustang kick-off return gave them great field position again and Jones promptly hit Williams for his second TD as cornerback Brandon Barker had fallen. The score remained 33-21 through the end of the quarter.
Hifo opened the fourth quarter with a one-yard score to complete a drive that had started four minutes earlier from the 35-yd line and brought the Patriots within five points, 33-28.
The Heritage defense forced a Rancho Verde punt with 8:21 left in the game. Virgil engineered a drive from the 19-yd line. Facing a fourth-and-nine from the Mustangs’ 24, Virgil connected with Rodriguez down the middle for the 24-yard go-ahead score and the visiting crowd erupted. "We had run that play before," said Rodriguez, "I knew I had to get open and score a touchdown for my boys. I told Brett the safety’s over and I just got open and got it done!" The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Rancho Verde had a chance to make Duffy's pre-game prediction come true. Trailing 34-33 with no timeouts left, Jones drove the Mustangs down to the 17 on eight rushing plays, spiking the ball with 7.9 seconds left. Alan Zuniga and the field goal unit came onto the field to attempt the 35-yarder; it was low and wide left and the Heritage sideline poured onto the field in celebration.
This was Rancho Verde’s second consecutive title game loss. Slaughter rushed for 158 yards on 24 carries.
Hifo carried 26 times for 158 yards and two scores; Virgil rushed for 95 yards on 13 carries. "We had a slow start." said Hifo, "but we had some unfinished business – It’s finished now!"
"I’m just so proud of them," shouted Broach amid all the cheering, "they just kept playing hard and making plays!"
The Patriots have never lost a Sunbelt League game and have been to the CIF finals the past three years. Congratulations on the first CIF Championship title!
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