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A Foothill breakthrough: West Ranch football beats Canyon

West Ranch wins its first-ever league game against one of the big four

Posted: October 31, 2009 12:07 a.m.
Updated: October 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch's Zak Snell (36) runs the ball as teammate Nick Nowakowski (76) and Canyon's Benjamin Graham (52) chase Friday at Valencia High.

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West Ranch had seen this before.

A long drive mounted late in the game by a tradition-rich Foothill League program, a drive that would snatch victory away.

It happened the previous week against Saugus.

The Wildcats weren't about to let it happen again.

Defensive back Keever Parrish chopped down Canyon quarterback Jonathan Jerozal at the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal with eight seconds left, and West Ranch capitalized on four Canyon turnovers to earn a 23-18 victory Friday at Valencia High School.

It marks the first win for West Ranch (5-3, 2-1) over a league school other than Golden Valley, and Wildcats head coach Sean O'Brien had trouble putting the feeling into words after the game.

"Not only can we think of ourselves as a good team, so can the rest of the league," O'Brien finally said.

With 2:26 remaining, Canyon's Drew Davis and Tyger Rodriguez blocked a West Ranch field goal attempt and the Cowboys took over at their own 14-yard line.

Trailing 23-18, Jerozal piloted the Cowboys to the West Ranch 15-yard line thanks to big pass plays and a 19-yard run by tailback Trent Hernandez.

On first-and-10 from the 15, Jerozal looked to the end zone but the pass was broken up at the last second by Parrish.

"The offense calls inside the 20 the red zone," O'Brien said. "For our defense, it's the bakery. You've got to turn up the heat."

The Cowboys (0-8, 0-3) still managed to get a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, but they had no timeouts left and were forced to spike the ball immediately.

After a 2-yard run by backup running back Vincent Rodriguez, Canyon had to spike the ball again, and Jerozal bootlegged to the left on fourth down but was met by Parrish.

"Coach told me something I'll never forget," Parrish said. "He told me, ‘You've got to get the job done.' That's what I did."

Parrish also had an interception in the first half, when Canyon really hindered its own progress with sloppy play.

There were two picks, including one by Branden Pistone, and a punt that was accidentally touched by Canyon and recovered by West Ranch.

There were also two failed fourth-down conversion attempts and four penalties for 40 yards.

The Cowboys finished with eight total penalties for 72 yards, but head coach Chris Varner was proud of how his team fought through it all.

"That's the way it goes sometimes," he said. "(The first half) was the best we've looked defensively all season. We battled and turned what was nothing into an exciting finish."

Indeed, Canyon's defense prevented West Ranch from building an insurmountable lead by forcing three Brady Stuart field goals in the first half, one of which came after West Ranch took possession at the Canyon 12.

With the Wildcats leading 6-0 late in the second quarter, quarterback Connor Eichten found Josh Guzman for a 26-yard strike and West Ranch's only touchdown before halftime.

On the ensuing Canyon possession Hernandez weaved his way for 49 yards on first down. After Jerozal found wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky for a 21-yard gain, Hernandez later finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, bringing Canyon within 16-8 at halftime.

Cowboys kicker Mohammad Roknipour booted a 29-yard field goal toward the end of the third quarter, and Canyon forced a punt on the next possession.

But a Jerozal pass was batted in the air and intercepted by West Ranch linebacker Tanner Lyon, who raced all the way back to the Canyon 26.

Aided by a personal foul penalty, West Ranch cashed in when fullback Trevin Manuel scored from a yard out to give the Wildcats a 23-11 lead early in the fourth.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Jerozal found paydirt from 6 yards out to cut the lead to 23-18, but that's as close as Canyon got.

Jerozal finished 15-of-28 for 206 yards.

"He did great," Varner said. "He's a 14-year-old kid. I'm proud of him. He took on a big responsibility this year and I have a lot of faith in him."

Hernandez had 195 yards rushing for Canyon, while Wolitarsky led the Cowboys with five catches for 120 yards.

Eichten went 12-of-23 for 146 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and running back Zak Snell had 19 carries for 87 yards.

Guzman wound up with two receptions for 66 yards.


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