East County Sports

Foohillers pull away from Valhalla

Grossmont's Dylan Smith carries against Valhalla on Friday night. / photo by Don De Mars




By Gene Yale

Special to EastCountySports.com


EL CAJON – It was a low-scoring affair Friday evening (Oct. 13) when Valhalla hosted Grossmont, at least until the second half when the two teams put up a whopping 60 points.


Unfortunately for the Norsemen, 40 of those were rung up by the Foothillers, as the visitors returned to La Mesa with a 54-26 impressive win.


Valhalla receiver CONNOR BUCKLEY goes up for a reception against Grossmont Friday night. / photo by Don De Mars

Valhalla had a shot early to ring up the first score.


Grossmont kicker AMBER HUFF apparently watched game film of long kickoff returns by the Norsemen special teams as she pooched the opening kickoff to the Valhalla 35, where it was returned by CONNOR BUCKLEY to the Valhalla 43 yard line, giving the home team good field position.


Senior quarterback BRYAN MADRIZ put together a methodical, 13 play drive to the ‘Hillers’ 10 yard line, but a delay penalty moved ‘em back 5 yards, stalling the drive.


Junior kicker ZACH PERNICANO’s 32 yard field goal attempt just missed, wide-right.  That missed opportunity set the stage for the first quarter:  neither offense had much success and neither team scored in the initial period.


Early in the second quarter, sophomore quarterback JAMIE ODOM made the most of being able to start near mid-field following a short punt.


From the Grossmont 46, Odom picked up 8 yards on first down with some nifty running, before he was brought down by DYLAN MARSH (13 tackles, 7 for loss, 2 sacks last week against West Hills) and CALEB CLENDENNON.


Fleet-footed senior running back SHEVELL STERLING added to the cause by picking up 16 yards in three carries, giving the La Mesa lads a first down at the Valhalla 30 yard line.


A pass interference penalty on the next play advanced the pigskin to the Norsemen 15.


Sterling rumbled for 8 yards to the Valhalla 7 on first down, and then Odom, after faking a handoff to Sterling, peeled to the left and danced all alone into the end zone. Huff’s kick was true; Grossmont led 7-0, with 9:39 left until halftime.


Grossmont’s ANDREW LIRA runs against Valhalla. / photo by Don De Mars

Valhalla was quick to respond.


Kick returner CAMERON MATTIA gathered in Huff’s kickoff at the 10 yard line and maneuvered down the field to the Grossmont 31 yard line, for a 59 yard return, where he was tackled by Huff.


On first down, junior defensive lineman MONRAY CANADY broke through and sacked the quarterback for a 2 yard loss.  On the next play, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by a ‘Hiller defensive back, coupled with another dead ball penalty against the visitors, moved the ball all the way to the Grossmont 9 yard line.


On first down, Madriz threw a perfect fade pass to wide receiver JESAI BENNETT in the end zone for a touchdown.  The extra point attempt was blocked, so the Foothillers clung to a 7-6 lead, with 8:33 left in the first half.


Grossmont scored another touchdown on its next possession, set up by a 50 yard completion by Odom to junior wide receiver THOMAS MANGUM, all the way to the Valhalla 9 yard line, where senior defensive back TY SCHIMKE saved the touchdown by making a nice open-field tackle.


On the next play, Sterling waltzed into the end zone, and once again Huff’s kick split the uprights, giving Grossmont a 14-6 advantage at the 6:53 mark of the second stanza.  That also finished off the scoring for the first 30 minutes of the game—three TDs in less than 3 minutes.


Valhalla goes up for a reception. / photo by Don De Mars

The second half was another story.


The two teams scored a total of 9 touchdowns, with 6 of them in the third quarter.  Grossmont struck first when Odom hooked up with the speedy Mangum, who sprinted 49 yards for the TD.  After Huff supplied the PAT, the visitors increased their lead to 21-6, with 9:59 remaining in the third quarter.


Valhalla’s Madriz didn’t waste timing answering:  he threw a strike to Buckley for a  30 yard gain to the ‘Hillers’ 9 yard line, and on the next play, found COLE HOWARD open in the left flat; Howard made a bee-line to the corner of the end zone.


Once again, the PAT attempt was blocked by the tenacious Foothillers, but the lead was trimmed to 21-12, at the 9:17 mark, only 42 seconds after Grossmont scored.


On Grossmont’s next offensive series, Valhalla held, forcing the La Mesa team to punt from its 26 yard line.  This time, big JOSH McNISH-HEIDER broke through and blocked the punt, which was scooped up by Howard, now playing defense.  He quickly ran 10 yards to pay dirt.


This time, Valhalla elected to go for two points on the PAT attempt.  Madriz threw a dart to Howard in the end zone for the conversion, and now, the Norsemen had narrowed the gap to 21-20, with 7:48 still left in the third period.


Of course, the ‘Hillers couldn’t wait to get the ball back.  Odom tossed a perfect pass to Sterling, who kicked in the after-burners and jetted 63 yards for yet another TD.


This time, however, Huff was unable to convert due to a bad snap, and Grossmont increased its lead to 27-20 at the 6:23 mark.


Then, the wheels started to come off for Valhalla.  A fumbled snap by the punter gave Grossmont great field position at the Valhalla 23 yard line.


Four plays later, Grossmont turned that miscue into another TD when Odom dove into the end zone from the 1 yard line.  This time, Huff’s kick was good; it was now 34-20, and still 3:44 left to play in the third quarter.


Refusing to throw in the towel, Valhalla marched down the field quickly after the ensuing kickoff, all the way to the Grossmont 32 yard line.


Senior defensive back ANDREW LIRA stepped in front of an errant pass, picked it off, and returned it  17 yards to the Grossmont 35 yard line, thwarting the attempted Norsemen comeback.


Two plays later, Sterling raced 14 yards to the end zone.  Another errant snap zilched the PAT attempt, but the ‘Hillers now had a commanding 40-20 lead, and still in the third quarter.


Sterling scored yet another touchdown in the 4th quarter on a 2 yard run with about 4 minutes left in the game, and senior quarterback DYLAN SMITH scored a 36 yard TD run for Grossmont as well.


Madriz capped the score at 54-26 with a 2 yard run for Valhalla, with less than 2 minutes left in the game.


It was a big night for Odom and the Grossmont offense, which gained 443 yards.


Odom was 11-23 for 166 yards and 1 TD.


Sterling carried the ball 22 times for 164 yards and 4 touchdowns.


Mangum had 3 receptions for 104 yards and 1 TD.


DAVION CHESTER and JACOB MCDONALD each recovered fumbles for the Foothillers.


Grossmont is now 5-2 on the season, and faces Steele Canyon next week, at home.


Valhalla looks to get back on track against El Capitan on October 20.

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