Valley Center, CA
June 5, 2023
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

Surging Jags romp over outmatched Escondido

Jaguar Jason Vasquez shakes free from a Cougar defender for a nice pickup down the sideline. Photos by Lenny Kerbs


The R&B and funk group, The Gap Band, produced a hit song in the early 80s entitled “You Dropped A Bomb On Me.”
Well, after what took place last Friday night between visiting Valley Center High and Escondido, one wonders if the Cougars didn’t feel that’s exactly the fate which befell them.
In a dominant performance that suggested the onrushing Jaguars might be embarking on a sustainable roll, VC exploded in virtually every way imaginable en route to a massive 61-13 victory at Wilson Stadium.
Truth be told, other than simply letting their guys play, the Jags made every effort not to run up the score on their struggling opponent. In reality, the outcome could have been even more lopsided.
While beating their neighbor down the grade for a 15th time in 20 outings, Coach Rob Gilster’s club established highs between the two teams in both points scored and margin of victory. Moreover, VC leveled its overall record at 3-3 but more importantly, remained atop the Valley League standings with a perfect 2-0 mark.
As for the overwhelmed Cougs, whose seasonal mark fell to 3-4, they remained winless (0-2) in VL competition.
Interestingly, in the early going, Esco hung around and trailed by only a 14-7 count after the first 12 minutes of action.
But then the Jag onslaught commenced in earnest. By the time the second quarter ended, VC had exploded for 28 more points, turning the game into a 42-7 runaway.
After intermission, VC tacked on three more rushing touchdowns that enabled the Jags to reach the 61-point plateau, the fourth highest total ever posted in school history.
In the wake of his team’s second straight impressive win – albeit in much different fashion than the first – coach Rob Gilster liked what he saw from his squad. “The kids did well tonight,” Gilster said. “We took advantage of our opportunities and played some really good football.”
Though the Cougars might have been understandably distracted because of health issues involving their head coach Aron Gideon, Gilster still felt the Jags stood out. “We can’t control what’s going on with another team,” the coach explained. “We can only control our end of things and in that regard, I think we did a solid job.”                                                                                                                                                                                              And it wasn’t like the Jags were anywhere near full strength, having lost talented tackle Chris O’Dell to a season-ending knee injury and being without reliable defensive back Justin Florez, who was nursing a nagging hip injury. “But this is a resilient group we have here,” Gilster said. “And we have had plenty of guys step up and fill in nicely.”
Though there was a host of Jags who had their shining moments, none shone brighter than the remarkable all-around talent that is Jake Dunckel. This senior playmaker drove the Cougars batty with his amazing exploits. Not only did Dunckel haul in 51 and 58-yard touchdown passes but he also hightailed it some 62-yards on a stirring punt return. All totaled, Dunckel amassed 194 all-purpose yards and continued to demonstrate that when it comes to entertainment value and production, very few gridders in the North County are his equal.

VC’s Jake Dunckel was a mighty weapon while getting loose and running wild against the Cougars. Photos by Lenny Kerbs

Another versatile Jag who continues coming on like gangbusters is ascending sophomore Jhett Stehly. Not only did this gifted youngster tally on a lengthy punt return as well as a short touchdown burst, he was also a force elsewhere—given the fact that he was selected as VC’s Defensive Player of the Game.
And then there was quarterback Colton Paxton, who enjoyed a highly efficient night while hitting on 8 of 10 passes that went for 167 yards and a pair of scores.
Meanwhile, hardnosed running back Corey Villalobos found the end zone on bursts from 7 and 4 yards out. Also getting it done on the ground were Matthew Leonard and Patrick Amos, each of whom delivered a touchdown tote. Noe Vasquez was an additional rusher of note, gaining 43 yards on just five carries before an injury in the second quarter sidelined him.
Others Jags who exerted real influence against Esco were Jason Vasquez (112 total yards), bulldozing guard Brayden Stansel and a defensive line that clearly controlled matters at the point of attack.
Next in line for VC will be a testing opponent in Fallbrook (4-2, 1-0), an efficient squad boasting a solid running game that figures to challenge the Jaguar defense. But playing at home for the first time in four weeks should provide the Jags with added incentive to keep building on the genuine momentum they’ve been generating lately.
Right now, it’s hard to argue that the Jags are not finding their groove. And should anyone have doubts about VC’s viability, they would be well-advised to simply ask the Escondido Cougars.
Because they know just how formidable the Jags can be when VC is hitting on all cylinders. Boy, do they ever!

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