Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vista Murrieta Takes Inland Division Championship in Thriller

Vista Murrieta dominated the action against visiting Corona Centennial in a thrilling Inland Division final only to look up at the scoreboard and find themselves trailing 28-27 with just a little over 3 minutes remaining on the game clock. Starting from their own 16-yard line the Broncos started the drive that would erase the memories of back-to-back Inland Division Championship game losses the previous two seasons. The Broncos converted two fourth downs on the drive including a key play when cagey quarterback Nick Stevens used a “hard-count” to perfection drawing Centennial defenders across the line of scrimmage on 4th and 3 from the Huskies 40-yard line. The ensuing 5-yard penalty gave Vista Murrieta a first down with about 30-seconds left in the game. Two plays later it was Stevens again, this time faking an interior hand-off and then exploiting a seam in the middle of the Huskies defense. The rangy 6’4 Junior broke free and weaved his way through the Centennial secondary evading a tackler at the 5-yard line and touching off an explosive celebration on the Murrieta side of the house as he broke the goal line. After a successful two-point conversion Vista Murrieta led 35-28 and when Bronco defenders dragged Romelo Goodman to the ground just a few seconds later Vista Murrieta had captured their first Inland Division Championship and completed a perfect 14-0 season.

In front of a sold out crowd that began arriving in the stadium at around 5:00 p.m. for the 8:07 kickoff the hometown Broncos got off to a quick start jumping ahead 10-0 in the first quarter behind a 31-yard field goal by Tyler Rausa and a 7-yd touchdown pass from Stevens to Su’a Cravens. Vista Murrieta’s defense was solid holding Centennial without a first down and throttling tailback Romelo Goodman on the Huskies first two possessions of the night. But senior quarterback Hayden Gavett got Centennial moving on their next drive using short passes to move the ball down the field. On the first play of the 2nd quarter Goodman plunged in from the 1-yard line, pulling the Huskies to within 10-7. It was one of two rushing touchdowns on the night for Romelo Goodman who finished the season with 44 TDs on the ground. Centennial forced the Broncos to punt on the ensuing possession and appeared to be building momentum when the Broncos Darion Williams intruded. On 4th down deep in Huskies territory the senior defensive back/wide receiver raced in from the end to block the punt and give Vista Murrieta possession at the Centennial 17-yard line. After a penalty for intentional grounding the Broncos converted on 3rd & 27 when Stevens found Williams for a 34-yard touchdown strike and a 17-7 Vista Murrieta advantage. Undaunted, Centennial came right back, taking just a little over 2 minutes the Huskies marched 71 yards in 7 plays with Hayden Gavett completing a 30-yard pass to flanker Isaac Crandall, Romelo Goodman tearing off a 20-yard run and Giles Guy-Williams hauling in a 16-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-14 at halftime.

As they had a week ago on this same field against a previously undefeated Upland team, the Broncos came out to start the 2nd half and just smashed the ball straight through the heart of the Centennial defense moving 83 yards in 10 plays, consuming 6 minutes off the game clock. Senior offensive lineman Corey Whitaker, Sapule Ta’amilo, and Joshua Stucki dominated the battle at the line of scrimmage repeatedly opening holes for Stevens and senior tailback Aaron Pieucukonis. On 4th & 1 at the Centennial 16-yard line, Su’a Cravens took a pitch from Stevens and sprinted around the left end of the Huskies defense out-racing defenders to the corner of the end-zone for the only score of the 3rd quarter and a 24-14 Vista Murrieta lead. Tyler Rausa added a 45-yard field goal following a Darion Williams interception on Centennial’s first possession of the 4th quarter and with just a little over 10 minutes remaining Vista Murrieta appeared on the way to the championship with a 27-14 lead. But with their defense reeling and their crowd silent the Huskies offense responded with two impressive 4th quarter drives to take the lead. Romelo Goodman, who had been held largely in check for most of the evening suddenly flashed his brilliance slicing through the Broncos defense for a 57-yard touchdown run trimming the lead to 6 points.

Centennial’s defense held on their next possession forcing a punt and giving the ball back to Hayden Gavett and the offense. In front of a now-nervous Murrieta crowd the Huskies started at their own 25-yard line and drove the ball 75-yards in 11 plays. With just 3:24 left in the game, Gavett found Giles Guy-Williams on a quick slant route for a 21-yard touchdown strike and Centennial’s first lead of the game at 28-27. Stifling crowd noise from a packed house at Vista Murrieta turned eerily quiet. The Inland Division Title that had eluded Vista Murrieta’s grasp the last two seasons suddenly appeared in jeopardy after a night of blue & gold domination on the field and the strain showed in the faces of the fans.

Starting inside their own 20-yard line Stevens and the Broncos began the drive that delivered the elusive Inland Division Championship to Vista Murrieta High School. Along the way, diminutive senior wide receiver Bradley Trujillo reeled-in a pass thrown behind him on 4th down to preserve the Bronco’s season. The hometown Murrieta crowd, parents and students alike (bloggers too!) went crazy as Stevens crossed the goal line, a celebration that was repeated just moments later when the final whistle sounded and Vista Murrieta was crowned Champion.

Congratulations to Head Coach Matt Logan and the Corona Centennial Huskies for another outstanding season.

Congratulations to Vista Murrieta Head Coach Coley Candaele and all the Broncos for winning their first Inland Division Championship! Now it’s up to the CIF Commissioners to determine if the Broncos overall body of work on the season qualifies Vista Murrieta for a State Bowl game next weekend.

After a perfect 14-0 season on the football field … It Should!

Rich Sharp


  1. BRONCOS FOR LIFE! EXCELLENT GAME! Once again, great coverage :). What a way to avenge two years of disappointment. VMHS 14-0!
    - "Not in our house" Kid

  2. It should be mentioned that Vista Murrieta Senior Tight End, Nick Chase, caught a two point conversion to end the scoring which ensured a seven point Bronco lead. Had the Huskies been successful in the final seconds of the game, Centenniel would have been forced to go for a two point conversion to attempt a win at the end of regulation time. As it was, Vista Murrieta's defense held on to preserve the victory.

    Bob Manning