Saturday, December 3, 2011

Vista Murrieta Takes Down Upland 39-18

“Two years ago we knocked on the door, last year we banged on it, this year we're going to knock the damn door down!” The game-ending speech from Vista Murrieta Head Coach Coley Candaele? Not exactly, those were the infamous words of Houston Oilers Head Coach Bum Phillips in 1980 following two consecutive defeats in the AFC Conference Championship game. But the sentiment is just as appropriate coming out of the Vista Murrieta locker room after the Broncos dominating 39-18 victory over previously undefeated Upland Friday night at Vista Murrieta High School. Candaele and the Broncos will be heading to the Inland Division Championship Game for the third consecutive season in search of their first title and a possible invitation to a State Bowl Game.

In front of a packed house Vista Murrieta got on the scoreboard first when quarterback Nick Stevens found receiver Cody Pieucukonis open for a 46-yard touchdown strike and a 7-0 Bronco lead. After the Vista Murrieta defense held the Highlanders without a first down it was Pieucokonis again. This time taking a punt on the Vista Murrieta 36-yard line, evading a tackler and then sweeping to the left hand side of the field picking up a wall of blue and gold-clad blockers down the sideline on the way to a 64-yard punt return for touchdown and a 14-0 Bronco advantage with 4 minutes left in the first quarter. Upland (12-1) responded as quarterback Nate Romine connected on passes with receivers Marques Mosley and Kenny Lawler to move into Bronco territory and senior tailback Donta Abron Jr finished the drive with a dazzling 32-yard touchdown run out-racing Vista Murrieta defenders to the pylon and trimming the deficit to 14-6. But Vista Murrieta dominated special teams all night and Bronco defensive back Darion Williams blocked the extra-point attempt. Following a fumble recovery on Vista Murrieta’s next possession the Highlanders quickly marched down the field again scoring with just seconds remaining in the first half when Romine found Lawler in the corner of the end-zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass. Lawler, a talented senior with Division I talent was closely covered on the play but managed to out-leap the defender and come down just inside the goal line. The Highlanders missed another extra-point and Vista Murrieta went into the half time intermission leading just 14-12.

The Broncos started the second half with a dominating 13-play 92-yard drive that consumed nearly 8 minutes off the game clock. It was the kind of tough, brutal Bronco football Murrieta fans have come to expect from Candaele and his players as tailback Aaron Pieucokonis and quarterback Nick Stevens (173 passing yards, 53 rushing yards) repeatedly smashed thru holes in the middle of the Highlanders defense opened by senior linemen Sapule Ta’amilo, Corey Whitaker, and Joshua Stucki. With 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter Stevens dragged Upland defenders across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown score and a 21-12 lead. Not to be outdone the Bronco defense responded on Upland’s ensuing possession with linebacker Su’a Cravens sacking quarterback Nick Romine on 3rd down forcing a punt. Cravens, among the most highly recruited players in Southern California had a sensation all-around game with 3 sacks, a blocked punt, 3 pass receptions and he ran in a two-point conversion. Following the punt by Upland the Broncos methodically marched down the field against a stunned and tiring Upland defense. It was Pieucokonis again, although it was Cody’s twin brother Aaron (17 carries, 133 yards) who tore through a massive whole on the right side of the Upland defense this time and dashed 33 yards to the end-zone. 28-12 Vista Murrieta with just 12 minutes to play in the game.

Romine and the Highlanders had one final gasp in their fantastic season. In just over 2 minutes Romine was able to move Upland down the field again connecting with Kenny Lawler on a key third-down conversion and running it in from the 1-yard line to cut the advantage to 28-18. Unfortunately for Upland the Broncos special teams responded again as Darion Williams took the ensuing kickoff at his goal line, broke a tackle at his own 20 and raced down the Highlanders sideline 65 yards before being pushed out of bounds. Tyler Rausa’s 31-yard field goal made the score 31-18 Vista Murrieta. Darion Williams completed an incredible game with a pick-six off a Nate Romine pass on Upland’s next possession that completed the scoring and sealed Upland’s fate.

Vista Murrieta (8-5, with all 5 losses by forfeit) will get a chance for some payback next Friday when they host Corona Centennial (12-1) in a rematch of last year’s Inland Division Championship Game. Time for Coley Candaele and the Broncos to knock that damn door down!

Rich Sharp


  1. I saw your comment on the L.A. Times article about Su'a Cravens and clicked on this blog, stunned to find a picture of myself. Im a Senior and an AVID football fan of vista. This is our year! Cant wait to read your article on next week's victory. GO BRONCOS!
    - The "Not In Our House" Kid :)

  2. Agree and disagree! I was one of those saying Upland was going to handle VM. But then I took a close look at Uplands last opponents in order starting with Los Osos, Glendora, Alta Loma, Murrieta Valley, and Charter Oak. That killed Upland, even though they beat Charter Oak badly, they were sloppy, and undisciplined. This team peaked around the Loyola/Etiwanda games. Even though they barely got by Etiwanda, Etiwanda was the most talented team in the Baseline league, just bad coaching. Look at their game with VM, they dominated VM with Su a Cravens. If VM would have caught this team after the Loyola game they would have gotten there ass's handed to them. This Upland team will go down as one of the best Upland teams ever. But they fell short........ When you have to throw in circumstances just to beat a VM or Corona Centennial team, that can not be a good thing. I say the Big 8 and Southwestern join Sunbelt and Inland Valley leagues to create the new Inland Division, it just makes more sense geographically. Baseline, Sierra, Citrus stay together and have Sunkist league join them to create the Foothill Division. What do you think?