East County Sports

Norsemen tug Helmet from Cougars’ grasp

Valhalla's JACOB PAAPE wrestles with a Steele Canton defender Friday night. / Don De Mars photography




EastCountySports.com Staff Report


El Cajon (10-29-16) — When the Fearless Forecaster dialed up his pigskin prognostications this week, he obviously got his signals crossed, divining that Grossmont would nip Helix in a close game and that Valhalla would blow out Steele Canyon.


Instead, the Highlanders laid it to the Foothillers 45-21, and Valhalla barely escaped at home with a 21-14 win over the fired up Cougars Friday evening (Oct. 28).


Steele Canyon won the toss and deferred until the second half.



Valhalla’s DANNY MADARA tries to escape the pursuit of the Steele Canyon defender Friday night. / Don De Mars Photography

A pooch kick-off to the Valhalla 25-yard line was returned by junior CONNOR MOSER to the Valhalla 40-yard line, giving junior quarterback DENNIS DAHLIN and the Norsemen offense good field position.  After a 5-yard penalty made it 3rd and 15 on third down, Dahlin found senior wide receiver BRANDON FULLER open for a 14-yard pass-catch to the Valhalla 49-yard line.


On 4th and 1, Norsemen coach CHARLES BUSSEY, confident in his offensive line’s run-blocking ability, elected to go for it – and – senior running back JEROME JOHNSON muscled his way for a 9-yard gain to the Cougars’ 42-yard line.


A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Steele 24-yard line.  On the next play, a razzle-dazzle halfback pass by Fuller to Moser was successful for an apparent 24-yard touchdown, but a penalty nullified the play, moving the ball instead back to the 29- yard line.


Seven plays later, Johnson danced into the end zone unmolested for a 3-yard TD, capping a 13-play drive.  Senior kicker JACOB PAAPE (3-3 PAT) supplied the extra point and Valhalla was on the board 7-0, with 5:57remaining in the first quarter.


In his typical fashion, Paape boomed the ensuing kickoff deep into the end zone, making the Cougars start from their 20-yard line.



Valhalla’s defense sacks Steele Canyon. / Don De Mars Photography

Junior quarterback THOMAS FISHBURNE got off to a rocky start when, under pressure, threw into coverage and had his first pass nearly picked by junior defensive back TY SCHIMKE.  Undaunted, Fishburne threw a dart on the next play to senior wide receiver AJ CASS-WILLIAMS for a first down to the 30-yard line.


Some nifty running by sophomore running back ISAIAH THOMPSON quickly moved the ball into Norsemen territory.  The drive appeared to stall at the Valhalla 39-yard line when junior defensive lineman JOSH McNISH-HEIDER batted down a Fishburne pass, making it 4th and 5.


Not to be outdone in the “let’s play to win” department, Cougars coach SCOTT LONGERBONE decided to go for it.


Fishburne threw a dart to senior wide receiver BRENDEN WILLIS for an apparent 21-yard gain to the Valhalla 18-yard line, but a holding penalty resulted in a Cougars’ first down at the Valhalla 6-yard line.


As the first period ended, Thompson brawled his way to the 11-yard line and another Steele Canyon first down.  Two plays later, Thompson burst into the end zone from the 6-yard line, and, after junior kicker JOHN LAUTNER (2-2 PAT) split the uprights, the game was knotted 7-7, just 53 seconds into the second stanza.


Fueled by the Cougars’ offensive success against the tough Orange Crush defense, the Cougars’ defense settled down and went to work, forcing Valhalla to punt after three plays on its next series, highlighted by junior defensive end DARIN WALTON’s quarterback sack.


Later in the half, Fishburne broke free and scrambled 35 yards to the Valhalla 3-yard line where Moser, now playing defensive back, made a TD saving tackle.  On the next play, senior linebacker BRENT BURNETT and senior defensive back ANTHONY PORTILLO stuffed the runner for a 4-yard loss to the 7.


Undeterred, on second down, Fishburne spied Thompson wide open in the end zone, made a perfect throw, and Steele Canyon took the lead 14-7, 3:06 before intermission.



Valhalla head coach CHARLES BUSSEY. / Don De Mars Photography

Coach Bussey must have had quite a chat with his charges during the break.


Starting at their 22-yard line to open the third quarter, the Cougars didn’t fare well.


On first down, junior linebacker DYLAN MARSH and senior linebacker JOSH HERNANDEZ flattened the runner for no gain.  On second down, senior defensive end BRANDON LEFFEW and Portillo dragged down the ball carrier for a 2-yard loss.  Third down likewise went awry; a fearsome rush resulted in a hurried incomplete pass, forcing the visitors to punt, giving Valhalla the ball at midfield.


Dahlin didn’t waste time, hitting Paape on a well-executed hitch and go for a 27-yard pickup to the Cougars’ 18-yard line.


A fired-up Johnson broke several tackles on the next play, barreling his way to the 2-yard line, where he was stopped by a TD-saving tackle by junior free safety JAVON WOODBRIDGE.


With a first and goal at the 2, Johnson tried the middle of the defensive line, where he was swarmed by a host of tacklers short of the goal.  Unfortunately for the defenders, Dahlin had expertly faked the handoff to Johnson and was strolling around left end into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown, 14-14, with 9:19 remaining in the third period.


Starting at their 20-yard line following the kickoff, the Cougar offense went to work.  Fishburne picked up 8 yards on first down.  Thompson scampered for 18 yards to the Steele 46 on the next play, and ripped off 10 more on the ensuing attempt, to the Valhalla 44-yard line.  A holding penalty moved the Cougars back to midfield and a quarterback sack by McNish-Heider and TYLER EASTLICK seemed to stop Steele’s momentum.



Valhalla with the Jamacha Helmet perpetual trophy Friday night. / Don De Mars Photography

On 2nd and 19 from the Cougars’ 47-yard line, Fishburne heaved what appeared to be a desperation pass nearly 50 yards downfield.  Senior defensive back ROLAND GLOVER, who already has three interceptions this season, went up in the air, snagged the ball, and, as he was coming down with it, junior wide receiver JORDAN ANDERSON snatched away the pigskin for an unbelievable completion to the Valhalla 7-yard line.


Two runs by Fishburne moved the ball to the 1-yard line.  On third down, Johnson, now playing linebacker, and senior defensive lineman MIGUEL PEREZ buried the runner for no gain, bringing up another 4th down decision for the Cougars coaching staff, who once again elected to go for the gusto.


Well, the Orange Crush did exactly that to the ball carrier, forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Hernandez at the 1-yard line.  This goal-line stand by Valhalla set the tone for the remainder of the game.


Early in the 4th quarter, Valhalla engineered a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by an 18-yard run by the versatile Portillo and 6 completions by Dahlin, the last of which was a 14-yard strike to Paape in the end zone at the 6:35mark, ending the scoring 21-14.  Once again, Valhalla gets to retain the “Jamacha Helmet” for another year.


Dahlin was 20-31-0, passing for 174 yards and one TD.  For the Cougars, Fishburne was 9-21-0 for 126 yards and one touchdown.

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