East County Sports

Hillers pounce as Norse lose handle

Grossmont sacks Valhalla, causing a fumble Friday night. / DON DE MARS PHOTOGRAPHY




East County Sports staff report


EL CAJON (10-15-16) — Halloween arrived two weeks too early for the Valhalla Norsemen Friday evening (Oct. 14) when they traveled on a moonlit night to take on fellow undefeated Grossmont in a Grossmont Hills League contest.

Six lost fumbles and an interception, coupled with a dominant performance by Grossmont, turned what should have been a close game into a rout, with the Foothillers dispatching rival Valhalla, 48-13.

“There was a lot of media hype all week on our campus,” said Grossmont coach TOM KARLO, “about the fact that both teams were undefeated. I was very confident that we would win the game.”


Grossmont’s JAMES MACKEY runs with the ball Friday night against Valhalla. / Don De Mars Photography

The game started with a twist.

Grossmont’s senior kicker, CHRISTOPHER GARCIA, dropped a short pooch kick to the Valhalla 38-yard line, where the Norsemen player was immediately smothered by the Foothillers’ special teams players.

Unfazed, Valhalla quickly marched down the field.

Senior running back JEROME JOHNSON rumbled for 43 of those yards in five carries, setting the table at the Grossmont 11-yard line.

On first down, Valhalla’s junior quarterback BRYAN MADRIZ faked a handoff to Johnson and scampered to his left, heading for the endzone. Just before he crossed the goal line, the ball came loose after a jarring hit by RILEY HAVIRD and JOE WILLIAMS and was recovered in the end zone by Grossmont’s junior defensive back ANDREW LIRA.

Starting at their 20-yard line, the Foothillers likewise marched right down the field, mostly on pinpoint passing by senior quarterback HUNTER GAINES, who was 6 for 6 on the drive, including a 15-yarder to junior wide receiver CURTIS JONES and a 19-yard bullet to senior wide receiver DOMONIQUE GUEVARA to the 3-yard line.

Senior running back JAMES MACKEY barreled into the end zone from 1-yard out to cap the drive.  After Garcia’s kick (5-for-6 on PATs on the night) cleared the uprights, Grossmont led 7-0 with 4:39 left to play in the first quarter.

Late in the first period, Valhalla got its offense moving again.


Grossmont and Valhalla battle for a pass Friday night. / Don De Mars Photography

Following a Hiller punt, the Norsemen had decent field position at their 35-yard line.

On second down, Madriz threw a bomb to senior wide receiver BRANDON FULLER, who, tightly covered by Lira, laid it out and made a diving catch for a 32-yard gain to the Grossmont 35-yard line. Two plays later, the Norsemen had a first down at the Hiller 22-yard line, poised to tie the game. Senior defensive lineman JULIAN SANDERLIN jarred the ball loose from the runner, thwarting the drive and giving Grossmont the ball.

Valhalla got another opportunity to knot the score early in the second quarter.

Starting on their 40-yard line after a Grossmont punt, Madriz threw a 26-yard completion to senior wide receiver DJ MADARA, to the Foothillers’ 30-yard line.

After a couple of nifty runs by Johnson, the Norsemen had a first and goal at the 1-yard line.

Madriz faked the hand-off to Johnson and headed for the end zone but was gang tackled led by Lira and knocked out of the game with a leg injury.  Johnson scored on the next play, but the PAT was wide right, making it 7-6 at the 8:43 mark of the second stanza.

On the ensuing possession, Valhalla’s JACE MANNING tackled a ball carrier for a 4-yard loss.  After a holding penalty and a dropped pass, Grossmont had to punt from their 5-yard line, which was bobbled by the returner and recovered by the Hillers at the Grossmont 45.

Two personal foul penalties resulted in Grossmont having to start anew from their 15-yard line.

Having recovered three Valhalla fumbles in the first 17 minutes of the game seemed to re-energize the potent Grossmont offense, highlighted by a 28-yard run by junior running back SHEVELL STERLING, JR. to the Norsemen 35-yard line.

Two plays later, Gaines connected with junior wide receiver ZACH JONES for a 28-yard TD pass-catch, increasing Grossmont’s lead to 14-6, with 3:32 until intermission.


Grossmont’s RAYMOND PERRAULT runs with the ball against Valhalla. / Don De Mars Photography

Almost unbelievably, Valhalla fumbled away the pigskin for the fourth time in the first half on the following kickoff.  This time, however, the Hillers were not able to capitalize, turning the ball over on downs just before the end of the first half.

Grossmont started the second half the same way they did to open the game – they marched down the field on a quick six-play drive that culminated with a 15-yard touchdown run by senior running back KENYON JOHNSON, increasing the Foothillers’ lead to 20-6, less than 2 minutes into the second half.

The following kickoff was another adventure for the hapless Norsemen –another pooch kick, another lost fumble, the 5th of the game.

Despite their woes in the ball-retention department, Valhalla had a chance to get back in the game midway through the third quarter when BRENNAN COX intercepted a pass and returned it to the Valhalla 18-yard line.

Valhalla junior quarterback DENNIS DAHLIN drove the Norsemen bus into Hiller territory, but a dropped pass at the Grossmont 30-yard line resulted in a 4th and 10 situation at the Foothillers’ 43-yard line.

Dahlin threw a dart to junior wide receiver CONNOR MOSER, but a crisp tackle by senior defensive back Havird stopped the play short of the first down marker, turning the ball over on downs, and taking the wind out of the Norse sails.

“The game was about tempo,” said Karlo. “We never left the field with some of our people and Valhalla could not keep up. I think we basically wore them down. Our guys know what it’s like to work at a heavy pace because we do it all week in practice. So our stamina is pretty good.”

Grossmont scored late in the third quarter on a 7-yard pass from Gaines to Guevara. This time the kick was wide right, but the 27-6 lead was insurmountable. Guevara had three touchdown receptions.

Valhalla pulled within 14 points early in the last period when Fuller ran it in from 5 yards out, and the Norsemen’s hopes rose when, five plays later, senior linebacker BRENT BURNETT recovered a Grossmont fumble at the Valhalla 27-yard line with 9 minutes left in the game.

The Norsemen’s hopes were dashed, however, when turnover number 6 – an interception – turned into a Grossmont TD when senior defensive back RAYMOND PERRAULT sprinted 35 yards to pay dirt with his pick.

You guessed it – another pooch kickoff, another Valhalla lost fumble – turnover number 7 – with Grossmont recovering at the Norsemen 37-yard line. The Hillers scored another touchdown on the next play, a 37-yard bomb into the end zone from Gaines to Guevara.  Two TDs in 12 seconds made it 41-13, with 7:50 left to play.

Junior CONNOR TORRES had one of the Grossmont fumble recoveries.

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