Hilltop Lancers 36, Imperial Tigers 35
The Hilltop Lancers were victorious in the quarterfinal game against the Imperial Tigers, winning by just one point in a thrilling fourth quarter. Jeremiah Rivera scored the crucial touchdown with one minute left to make the score 35-34 Imperial, and it was Noe Sanchez who took it home on the 2-point conversion to put the Lancers back on top with the final score of 36-35. With the win, Hilltop will now face off against No. 1 seed Southwest EC next Friday in the semi-finals.
Rivera kicked off the action with a 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to make the score 7-0 Lancers, and he quickly followed that up with a 2-yard TD run. In the second quarter, Noe Sanchez kept the action coming for Hilltop with a 51-yard run straight up the middle to put the Lancers up 21-0.
Yet Imperial’s quarterback Joseph Tarango wasn’t ready to let the game slip away, as he ran the ball in himself for a 2-yard TD to put the Tigers on the board. Brandon Hueso quickly followed with a 4-yard TD run of his own to cut the Lancers’ lead to one touchdown in the third quarter. But Hilltop was quick to strike back, as quarterback Daniel Mcpherren connected with Max Ugarte for a 30-yard touchdown pass to put the Lancers up 28-14.
In the fourth quarter, just as Hilltop thought it was pulling away, Imperial came knocking on their door as Joey Ramos made a 4-yard TD run to cut the lead to seven again. Next up, Tarango found Santiago De La Torre in the end zone with a beautiful 20-yard pass to make the score 28-27 Hilltop. And just like that, it was a one-point game. Brandon Hueso kept it coming for Imperial as he took the pitch and scored on a 25-yard run. The Tigers followed that up with a successful two-point conversion, and for the first time in the game, the Tigers had taken the 35-28 lead.
With less than two minutes left on the clock and potentially in their season, the Lancers struck back. Rivera was trusted to take it to the house, as he scored a critical 4-yard touchdown to make the score 35-34 Imperial. That was Rivera’s third TD on the night. Noe Sanchez then charged ahead for the 2-point conversion to win the game, as the Lancers came out on top with the 36-35 victory.
The Tigers’ season came to an abrupt end, while the Lancers’ season lives to see another week in the next round of playoffs. Tune in to the PPR on KUSI every Friday night at 10:30pm to keep with all the best highlights and recaps of the CIF playoffs.
PREVIEW: Week 13 of the Prep Pigskin Report will feature a matchup between 4th seed Hilltop and 5th seed Imperial in the CIF San Diego Division III Quarterfinals. Imperial earned this spot after defeating Patrick Henry 41-0 in the first round of the D. III playoffs, while Hilltop had a bye last week for an automatic bid to the quarterfinals as the home team. Kickoff is set for 7pm this Friday.
The Hilltop Lancers, led by head coach Andrew Westling, claim a 6-4 overall record and a 3-0 league record that earned them the South Bay League title. Their best performance of the season was their 50-14 victory over Castle Park on September 22, in which three separate Lancers – Dylan Mccoy, Max Ugarte, and Jeremiah Rivera – scored a pair of touchdowns each. Hilltop has performed very well in league matches, beating opponents by a combined score of 67-12. Hilltop’s four losses came at the hands of tough opponents including Eastlake, Grossmont, Olympian, and Granite Hills, so the Lancers should focus on improving and preventing mistakes made in these games.
The Imperial Tigers, anchored by head coach Kerry Legarra, have a 5-6 overall record and a 2-3 record in the Imperial Valley League. This Friday, they’ll look to achieve their third straight victory, after two commanding wins against Palo Verde Valley on Nov. 3 and the crucial win against Patrick Henry on Nov. 10. The Tigers’ best performance of the season came earlier in the season against Calexico, in which they scored eight touchdowns and shut out their opponent. Yet the Tigers nonetheless have a lot of areas in which they can improve, and that starts with closing out close games. In four separate games this season, the Lancers lost by one touchdown or less, including a disappointing 24-21 defeat to Central in double overtime on October 13. If Imperial had been able to put away those games earlier, or pulled off a second half surge, that would have made a huge difference in their current record.
On the Imperial team, be on the lookout for senior Brandon Hueso (#2), who has 225 carries for 1,495 yards and 16 touchdowns. With 4,023 career rushing yards, Hueso is in second place as the all-time leading rusher in school history, behind 2013 Silver Pigskin Winner Royce Freeman. In the air, watch for junior Santiago De La Torre (#13), who has caught 46 passes for 687 yards and 9 TD’s. On the defensive end, watch for senior Diego Hernandez (#5) who has 9 sacks, 68 solo tackles, and 112 total tackles this season.
On Hilltop’s squad, watch for senior Jeremiah Rivera (#24) to make big plays on offense, as he leads his team in rushing yards with 192 carries for 1,333 yards and 11 touchdowns. No other Lancer running back comes close to Rivera’s numbers. Also keep your eye out for senior Daniel Mcpherren (#6) who leads the team at QB, having tallied 114 passes for 1,106 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense, watch for senior Josh Brown (#7) who leads the team in tackles with 72 (19 solo), along with 3 sacks.
Kickoff is set for 7pm. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Southwest EC (1 seed)-Mount Miguel (8 seed) matchup in the semi-finals next week. Make sure to tune in to the Prep Pigskin Report this Friday at 10:30pm on KUSI for recaps and highlights of this game and more throughout the county, and be sure to follow @RedJacketArmy on Instagram and Twitter.