Source: Valley Roadrunner

VC football team still looking for answers after loss at Poway
Jaguars’ mistakes in first and fourth quarters transform close game into a rout

by Dan Kidder

October 02, 2013

Good athletes and good teams know that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

Unfortunately for the Valley Center varsity football team, a pair of early turnovers and a mistake on the final play of the game turned an otherwise close game with a strong finish into another loss, as the Jaguars traveled to Poway and walked away on the short end of a 45–21 score.

The Jags opened the game with a dominant drive that took 15 plays, covered 78 yards and took up most of the first quarter.

But the final yard proved to be the hardest to gain, as Brad Dozier fumbled on his way to the goal line, and Poway recovered to keep the game scoreless for the time being.

Poway scored early in the second quarter to take the lead, and after holding the Jags to a three-and-out, a bad snap on the punt attempt led to the Titans tackling Valley Center punter Matt Barnes at his own three-yard line.

One play later, the Titans were up 14–0 and gaining confidence with every snap.

But Valley Center fought back in the second half, after trailing by 21 at halftime. For every touchdown the Titans scored in the second half, the Jaguars had one to match. But the deficit from the first half proved to be too much to overcome.

Late in the fourth quarter, Poway kicked a 39-yard field goal to go ahead by 24, but the Jaguars rallied and scored a touchdown to make the score 38–21. Despite the loss, the score helped restore some confidence on the Valley Center sideline and the coaches were all pleased to see their team’s effort in the second half.

But the wind promptly left the Jaguar sails, as the Titans returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play.

“That last kick, that’s the story of the game for us,” head coach Rob Gilster told his team after the game. “Instead of executing the play, letting them run out the clock and going home with some momentum, we give up a long touchdown. We can’t make mistakes. We had them seven-nothing after that first drive, with something to build on, and boom! We turn the ball over. We’re better than forty-five to twenty-one. It breaks my heart for you guys. You could’ve beaten them. You should have beaten them. But the stupid mistakes are killing us.”

The Valley Center passing game, missing two of its top three targets due to injury — Anthony Ricks is out for an indefinite amount of time with a shoulder separation similar to an injury he suffered last season, and Jared Gilster remains out with a broken collarbone — turned in a solid performance after struggling in the past two games.

Quarterback Daniel DeLeon completed 19 of 35 passes for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

His favorite target through the air was Josh Lucas, who hauled in ten catches for 144 yards and a score, while August Fluegge made three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown, Luke Konyn had four catches for 34 yards and Dozier had two catches for 33 yards.

On the ground, Jacob Cunningham was in the middle of an outstanding performance, to the tune of 11 carries for 83 yards, when he left the game in the third quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Dozier also added 11 carries for 44 yards in the rushing game.

The offense once again struggled to protect the quarterback, as the Jags allowed eight sacks in the game. But six of those came in the first half and only two after halftime, which serves as a key factor in the difference in Valley Center’s ability to score in the second half versus the scoreless first half.

“We don’t believe in ourselves,” Coach Gilster added. “We can win, but the mistakes are killing us. Every guy, to a man, made mistakes tonight, and that includes us as coaches. The good thing is that they’re correctable. We’ve got guys who can win, we just have to fix these mistakes.”

The Jaguars opened the game with possession and proceeded to march down the field. They picked up five first downs, including one on a fourth-and-one conversion at the Poway 24-yard line, and had the Titan defense on its heels. But when Dozier fumbled on a run from the two-yard line, the Titans recovered and escaped without a Valley Center score on the board.

The teams traded punts on the next two drives before Poway put up the game’s first points after a five-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that put the Titans up 7–0 with 8:58 left in the second quarter.

On the ensuing possession, the Jaguars gave up a pair of sacks and had to punt, but the bad snap allowed Poway to drop the punter at his own three and give the ball back to the offense with great field position.

The Titans scored on the next play to take a 14–0 lead with 7:51 left before halftime.

After another Valley Center three-and-out, Poway drove 65 yards in seven plays to score on a 32-yard touchdown pass that made the score 21–0 with 3:21 remaining in the second period.

The Jaguars punted again, and with time running out in the half, Poway eventually went for it on fourth-and-ten near midfield, but the Valley Center defense stepped up and forced an incompletion with six seconds on the clock. The Jags ended up with two more plays before halftime, but couldn’t advance any further than their own 49, and trailed by three touchdowns at the break.

The Jaguar defense stepped up again on Poway’s first drive of the third quarter, as they forced a three-and-out.

The Valley Center offense responded with its first scoring drive of the night, marching 73 yards in 12 plays, overcoming a sack along the way, to put up an 11-yard touchdown pass from DeLeon to Lucas that made the score 21–7 with 3:37 left in the third quarter.

The Titans couldn’t respond in kind, and were once again held to a three-and-out by the VC defense. The punt pinned the Jaguars back at their own 15, and they were eventually forced to punt, but not before picking up a first down and moving out to the 36.

Poway finally picked up a first down and a lot more on the next drive, as the Titans scored a 45-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the series, making the score 28–7 just 14 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The Jags couldn’t complete a pass on the next drive and went three-and-out, and it wasn’t long before the Titans were in the endzone again, this time on a fake screen pass that turned into a long completion down the field for a 38-yard touchdown. The score put Poway up 35–7 with just over nine minutes left in the game.

The Jaguars allowed their second sack of the half on the ensuing drive, but once again overcame the setback to put together a ten-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown sneak by DeLeon with 4:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Poway’s next drive stalled and the Titans kicked a field goal with just over a minute remaining in the game to make the score 38–14.

But the Jags ran the two-minute offense efficiently to drive 77 yards in seven plays, taking up only less than a minute, to score on a 33-yard touchdown pass from DeLeon to Fluegge with only four seconds left in the game.

Unfortunately, however, the final play was an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown for the Titans, giving the final score a more lopsided appearance than the game would otherwise have suggested.

The Jaguars head into a bye week this Friday before traveling to Del Norte next week to begin league play.

“The league is there for us to win, and we’re good enough to win it if we don’t make mistakes,” Coach Gilster said. “Hopefully we can get some guys healthy on our bye and start to eliminate some of these mistakes.”

Coach Gilster also briefly responded to a question about a photo circulating around town that shows him refusing to shake hands with the Mission Hills coach after last week’s 45–0 loss against the Grizzlies.

“It wasn’t something I planned on doing, but when I got out there, I just couldn’t shake his hand,” he said. “I understand that he needed to get his guys ready for Oceanside, but my guys were getting hurt. I think it was my own pain more than anything he did; I was just hurting for my guys and I couldn’t do it.”

The Jaguars have this Friday off and return to action on October 11 at Del Norte. That game is scheduled for 7 p.m.