East County Sports

Valhalla makes noise with road win at Granite

By Jim Lindgren

© East County Sports.com

EL CAJON (9-5-15) — Granite Hills coach KELLAN COBBS had just viewed vastly improved Valhalla up close for the first time since a 38-point romp last season. On Friday night (Sept. 4) in the Valley Stadium north end zone, shortly after digesting a 17-10 loss, Cobbs had this nugget of praise for his counterpart, CHARLES BUSSEY.

VAL-GH Score“You’ve got a little hidden gem of a team,” said Cobbs, while shaking hands with Bussey, now in his fifth season with the Norsemen. “Keep on winning. Win as many as you can. Every game you win from here on out helps us, too.”

The little hidden gem was aided immensely by a stellar defense that allowed only 69 rushing yards and 80 passing yards to a team accustomed to much more.

“That’s two weeks in a row they’ve played very well,” Bussey said. “We have a senior-laden defense – nine seniors, a junior and a sophomore as starters – that helps a lot.”

Valhalla (1-1) dropped a 14-7 decision to a very good Otay Ranch team last week. Last year, the Norsemen were 4-7, including a 45-7 loss to Granite Hills.

The difference is experience, Bussey pointed out.

Josh McNish-Heider makes a tackle against Granite HIlls on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015.

Josh McNish-Heider makes a tackle against Granite HIlls on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015.

“We looked at their game film and came up with some adjustments, and our defense did a great job of adjusting on the fly,” Bussey said. “That’s experience of having guys who have been on the field a lot. If you have a lot of young guys, they don’t always make those adjustments.”

After Granite Hills’ JACOB SIEGFRIED connected with tight end TYLER GONZALEZ on a 12-yard completion on the first play of the game, the Eagles (1-1) went nowhere and punted. Second possession was three-and-out. Third possession was three-and-out. Fourth possession ended with a fumble that JORDAN ELLIS scooped up and returned 48 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Norsemen lead early in the second quarter.

“We try to be aggressive and get the ball out,” Bussey said. “We tell them all the time, ‘If we get the ball out, let’s try to get a score out of it.’ ”
Valhalla scored again with 4:23 to play in the half to make it 10-0 at intermission. An 8-play, 62-yard drive stalled at the 1-yard line, and JACOB PAAPE was brought on to boot an 18-yard field goal.

Granite countered on the first play of the second half, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Eagles SID RODRIGUEZ at the 25-yard line.

LYNDON FRANKLIN, who had an interception in the end zone in the first quarter, took a handoff from Siegfried and raced 24 yards around right end before being knocked out of bounds. Granite Hills’ THOMAS YOUMOG took the next handoff right up the gut for a 1-yard score to make it 10-7.

After seven more punts and a narrowly missed 54-yard field-goal attempt by the Eagles’ BRYCE STRICKLAND (plenty long, but wide left), it was still 10-7 inside 4:00 remaining.

Jerome Johnson hits the hole against Granite Hills on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015.

Jerome Johnson hits the hole against Granite Hills on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015.

Valhalla’s offense then got hot. PHILLIP NASEH connected with JEROME JOHNSON on passes of 19 and 29 yards to ignite the drive. On second-and-12 from the 15, Naseh’s next pass was tipped up by sophomore JOSH NcNISH-HEIDER in the flat and hauled in by Paape, who was hit and fell hard on the 7-yard line.

Paape laid on the field for several minutes before leaving the game and being taken to a hospital with a shoulder or collarbone injury. (Remember, he’s also the Valhalla kicker.)

On the next play, Naseh fired a strike to sophomore CONNOR MOSER on a slant pattern in the end zone. Backup kicker CONNOR CHAMBERLAIN converted the extra point to give the Norsemen a 17-7 cushion with 3:41 to play.

“We struggled to make some plays, but when we needed it, the offense came through,” Bussey said. “To get that catch, at that stage of the game, that’s a huge play for a sophomore.

“Phillip showed a lot, too, putting it right where he needed it.”

Granite Hills wasn’t done, though. The Eagles got a 29-yard kick return from Youmog and then four rapid-fire completions from backup QB FRANKIE LUCATUORTO for 32 yards – two apiece to RILEY REYES and RYAN ROJ. Another pass to GUSTAVO GUTIERREZ went for 10 yards and a first down at the 12.

Strangely though the Eagles spiked the ball, rushed for minus-2 yards and spiked the ball again to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Strickland to make it 17-10 with 1:51 left.

After a three-and-out by Valhalla, the Eagles got the ball back at their 24-yard line, but four incompletions ended any hope.

“We knew it was going to be a defensive game,” Cobbs said. “Unfortunately we turned the ball over, and they scored on it. That was the difference.

“I thought our defense played very well. We have to find an identity on offense.”

Naseh wound up with 166 passing yards on 15-of-24 attempts with one touchdown and one interception.

His targets included seven teammates, led by Paape with four catches for 32 yards and Jerome Johnson with three grabs for 54 yards. Johnson also rushed 14 times for 52 yards, and Naseh added 36 rushing yards on 11 attempts.

“That’s what we were hoping to see from (Johnson), downhill running,” Bussey said. “He’s a big kid. He’s a competitor.”

Franklin led the Eagles with 71 rushing yards on 13 attempts.

Granite Hills also had seven receivers catch balls, but none more than two. The longest was a 22-yard gain by JARROD WEISHAN.

In addition to Ellis’ interception return TD, the Norsemen got sacks from TREY SHIMKE and LOGAN BAKER.

The Eagles’ JACOB BURTON (committed to Arizona) had two sacks, and RICKY GAMINO and KOLLIN MENZIE each added a sack.

Valhalla has a bye next week before hosting Mar Vista. Granite Hills hosts another good defense in Steele Canyon next week.

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