East County Sports

Wolf Pack skills resemble Hills

West Hills wraps up a Grossmont player on Friday night. / Ramon Scott

 

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2022 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL

 

But for a program that has never advanced past the quarterfinals of the playoffs in 33 years of existence, there is always room for improvement.

The Wolf Pack defeated the host Grossmont Foothillers in a 24-6 Grossmont Conference season-opening victory on Friday night.

West Hills came less than a minute from its first shutout over a Grossmont team in 15 years. In fact, the last three meetings dating back six years had resulted in a lopsided 134-17 advantage for the Grossmont Hills League representative Hillers over the Grossmont Valley League’s Wolf Pack.

Grossmont tries to bring down West Hills on Friday night. / Ramon Scott

It was the team from Santee that looked like it deserved to play with the big clubs, while Grossmont was the side that appeared to be overmatched in strength and talent for now.

The Wolf Pack rushed for three touchdowns and kept the Foothillers out of the end zone until there were 38.9 seconds to play.

West Hills has won 14 of its last 15 varsity football games dating back to the Spring of 2020.

Just two seasons ago, in that Spring season, the Foothillers defeated the Pack, 44-3, on Opening Night on the same field, the first night of varsity football during the pandemic.

This was West Hills’ first victory over the Foothillers since 2013 when the Wolf Pack won at home 48-6 in a Grossmont Hills League game when WHHS was lumped in with the stronger league.

It was Grossmont’s first opening night loss since 2017.

West Hills fumbled the ball and turned it over on the first play from scrimmage. Elijah Webb of the Foothillers recovered the early miscue.

However, from there, there was little that the Wolf Pack did wrong.

West Hills’ Vince Keller races around Grossmont on Friday night. / Ramon Scott

Wolf Pack senior quarterback Collin Dill, senior running back Diego Calderon, and junior Nathan Stevens had rushing touchdowns. Tyler Haley booted a 30-yard field goal and three PATs for West Hills’ scoring.

West Hills junior Cody Musser had a sack to terminate Grossmont’s first series, and the Pack turned their possession into a score when Stevens rushed for a 34-yard touchdown toward the right side just a little over three minutes into the game.

On Grossmont’s second possession, senior Braden Wilson recorded a sack with the Hillers in the red zone. He later led the charge was West Hills blocked a Grossmont field goal attempt late in the first quarter.

West Hills put together a drive that included a pair of completions from Dill to junior Alexander Grubbs to take the ball deep into Grossmont territory. Dill smashed into the end zone for a touchdown with 4:50 left before halftime, giving the Wolf Pack a 14-0 lead.

“We knew this was the one opponent that we felt we could show people who we are and how strong our team is,” Dill said.

Grubbs and fellow running back Frederick Rowbotham helped keep Grossmont out of the end zone again late in the second quarter with their pass coverage on defense.

Grossmont received a fortunate bounce late in the second quarter when an attempted punt by the Hillers got no more than 20 feet off the ground and less than 20 yards down the field but the unexpected trajectory ended up just bouncing off a Wolf Pack player allowing Grossmont to recover in Wolf Pack territory.

The Foothillers were eventually denied, however, from the 2-yard line as time expired in the first half.

Calderon scored his touchdown on the Wolf Pack’s first possession of the third quarter on a short touchdown burst with 5:50 to play in the third, capping a 52-yard drive.

Calderon also caught a 15-yard pass from Dill on the half-field drive

“We a little smaller team so we have to work hard on conditioning,” Calderson said. “Our run game is going to be heavy, but don’t doubt Collin’s passing. We are a team where it doesn’t matter how big our plays are, it comes down to how hard we work.”

The West Hills defense was led by Wilson and Rye Schultz, both standouts from last year’s historic Wolf Pack squad. Schultz had a fumble recovery in the third quarter.

Seniors Lance Breseno and Gavin Condon, the nose tackle, led West Hills to a very strong performance against the Foothillers.

Haley’s field goal came with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

The offensive line play for West Hills was led by junior Tystan Gilbert-Aiu, who also forced a fumble on special teams after a 52-yard boot over the head of the return man by Haley.

Senior Cameron Quigley, another standout from the Pack defense in the game, recovered the ball.

“I thought we were pretty physical for the first game of the season,” West Hills head coach Casey Ash said. “We controlled the point of attack with Condon. I thought (senior) Dylan Smith at corner did a great job for us. And Rye emerged last season as a strong player for us and we’re looking for him to do what he did tonight.”

The Foothillers finally cracked the end zone against West Hills’ second unit, the starters trying to rally behind them from the Wolf Pack sideline.

Finally, Grossmont quarterback Hudson Herber connected with Nolan Kelly at the goal line for a Foothiller touchdown in the final minute.

Herber, a junior transfer who played at Coronado last season, passed for a little more than 100 yards in his Grossmont debut. On the same night, some seven miles away in Spring Valley, Herber’s sophomore brother started at quarterback for Steele Canyon High after attending Christian High last year.

West Hills will travel to face Imperial next Friday. The Wolf Pack defeated the Tigers, 21-7, at home last season in a Week 2 matchup. West Hills was shut out in a playoff game against the Tigers in the IV in 2018.

Grossmont, meanwhile, will travel to face El Camino on Friday. The Wildcats defeated St. Augustine, 29-13, in the season opener.

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