Saturday, November 28, 2015 • 10:31

Jaguars return to site of 2010 football brawl, but leave Del Norte with another loss

The Jaguars have fallen below .500 for the first time since 2006. Photos courtesy of Gabriel Santana
October 16, 2013
Ever since Del Norte High School opened in 2009, the Nighthawks have maintained a fierce rivalry against all the various Valley Center sports teams.

This is especially true of the football rivalry, which has often spilled over into extra-curricular activities of questionable sportsmanship — none more noteworthy than the Jaguars' trip to Del Norte in 2010 for a game that featured a number of unpenalized late hits and, eventually, an all-out brawl on the field.

For the first time since that game in 2010, the Jags headed to Del Norte on Friday night to play the Nighthawks, but didn't have much fight left in them after suffering a 31–7 loss.

The defeat marked the first loss the Nighthawks have handed the Jaguars in the four games the teams have played against each other. It also puts the Jaguars two games below .500 for the first time since they lost back-to-back games to open the 2006 season.

"We just didn't make plays," said head coach Rob Gilster after the game. "We have a few guys hurt so we're asking a lot of some guys, so our margin for error is razor-thin. We've got to get every play, and we just miss too many. We've got to get better. I don't know what else to say."

Del Norte jumped out to a 3–0 lead early in the game, but Valley Center, already on a three-game losing streak after falling to La Jolla, Mission Hills and Poway in succession, took the lead for the first time since Sept. 6 against Brawley when Dalton Larabee plunged across the goal line with 3:20 left in the first quarter to give the Jaguars a 7–3 lead.

It took a trick play — a fake punt pass, to be exact — for the Nighthawks to wrestle the lead back with a 44-yard touchdown pass just before halftime.

The score remained 10–7 for most of the third quarter, but after a Jaguar turnover, the Nighthawks scored to pull ahead 17–7 with 1:38 left in the third quarter.

Del Norte scored on its next two possessions, while keeping Valley Center off the scoreboard, to take the big win.

Junior quarterback Daniel DeLeon completed just nine of 21 passes for 125 yards, with Brad Dozier leading the receivers with five catches, while Larabee led the ground game with 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.

"It's the missed opportunities," Coach Gilster told his team after the game. "We just need to make the plays that are there. You don't have to be miracle-workers, you just have to get in front of somebody. You're good kids, but when things go bad, we just get worse, and that's a character issue. Every one of us, we need to take this as a challenge. We just need to get first downs, and get off the field on third down."

Del Norte opened the game with the first possession and drove down the field for the first points of the game, which came from a 23-yard field goal after the Valley Center defense held on third-and-goal from its own six-yard line.

The teams traded punts before the Jags embarked on a scoring drive of their own, a four-play, 46-yard march that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Larabee that put the Jaguars up 7–3 with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter.

The Nighthawks put together a 16-play drive on the ensuing possession that included a conversion on fourth-and-six, but once again had to settle for a field goal attempt from 38 yards out that came up short.

The game took a turn for the physical on the next Valley Center drive, as offensive lineman Kyle Morgan was thrown to the ground by a defender who stayed on top of Morgan until the latter pushed his way out of the pile. Morgan was understandably upset, but refrained from further action after Coach Gilster called out from the sideline to warn his players not to get thrown out of the game because "We don't have any backups!"

In the end, however, the Jags punted, and Del Norte took over for an eight-play drive that culminated in a fake punt pass that went for a 44-yard touchdown with just 16 seconds left before halftime.

Neither team could make much headway in the third quarter until the Jaguars' second drive. On the fifth play of the series, DeLeon tried to fit a pass in to his receiver along the sideline near midfield, but the pass was intercepted. The Nighthawks tried to lateral the ball, and it appeared as though they had done so successfully, to the tune of a touchdown, but one of the officials on the far side of the field blew his whistle to end the play back at the 50-yard line.

From there, it took Del Norte only two plays to score again, this time on a slant pass that turned into a 45-yard touchdown that gave the Nighthawks a 17–7 lead late in the third quarter.

The Jaguars punted on the ensuing possession, and Del Norte responded with a six-play, 56-yard touchdown drive capped by a three-yard touchdown run that made the score 24–7 with 8:18 left in the game.

Valley Center fought to stay in the game and strung together a lengthy series of 13 plays, but an intentional grounding penalty led to a 43-yard field goal attempt that came up short.

Del Norte, needing to run out only a few minutes of game clock, pushed down the field and scored a touchdown with only 28 seconds left in the game, sealing the big win.

The Jaguars hit the road again this week to play at San Marcos on Friday at 7 p.m. The following week, they return home to face Mt. Carmel in the annual Homecoming game.

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