Scripps Ranch 27, Valley Center 20
In the simplest terms, the Scripps Ranch Falcons did one thing Friday night in their first-round Division 2 playoff game against the hosting Valley Center Jaguars: they overcame.
Down by a score of 20-0 into the fourth quarter, the Falcons looked poised to hit the bus — which by then was probably already warmed up waiting for the game clock to provide some mercy and let the time reach 0:00 — as a defeated first-round team once again. Scripps Ranch lost a year ago in Division 2’s first round, to a West Hills team that nearly doubled them up in points. Apparently, the Falcons were determined to not endure such loss again. Scoring 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter alone Friday, Scripps Ranch emerged victors, no doubt making that hour-long drive back into San Diego proper much less difficult to endure.
The game started out as one might have expected it. The Jaguars were seeded higher — Valley Center earned the division’s sixth seed while Scripps Ranch held the 11th. By that measure, the Falcons would be the underdogs. And for three quarters, they played like underdogs.
Unable to sustain drives of their own, the Falcons escaped the first quarter unscathed. But two plays into the second quarter, Valley Center’s Jacob Newman — whose name was called in the announcer’s booth many times Friday — put the Falcons in the red with a 2-yard touchdown after a successful drive that began before the first quarter ended. 7-0. Valley Center added to its lead on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Rhett Reilly to Steven Much, after a drive that, again, featured numerous runs from Newman in excess of 10 yards. 14-0. After holding the Jaguars scoreless in the third quarter, and looking like they might give themselves a small chance for a comeback in the fourth, Valley Center struck again. 21-0. This time, it was on a 7-yard pass from Reilly to a diving Daniel DeLeon up the middle.
The chance for a Scripps Ranch victory — all but gone. There’s a reason why that phrase uses the word “but.”
For the first time since the opening kickoff, the Falcons came out confident and determined. Quarterback Zach Podraza began connecting on passes to his receivers, and Scripps Ranch looked like it was out for some consolation points.
But the Falcons’ fate was bigger than that. Minutes into the fourth quarter, they put their first points on the board, on a 33-yard strike from Podraza to receiver Desmond Simmons. The two would connect again on the Falcons’ next drive to set up Podraza’s 2-yard keeper into the end zone, good enough for another six-plus-one and a new, manageable 20-14 score in favor of Valley Center.
Podraza the completions coming, as he would in the Falcons’ next drive get all the boys from Scripps Ranch would need to win this one, on an 11-yard toss to receiver Josh Fish that brought the Falcons ahead 21-20. What came next was merely a series of what can only be described as football’s versions of exclamation points.
Down for their first time all game — after having relied mainly on short slant passes to the perimeter — the Jaguars took to the air, up the middle, and paid a price when Falcons cornerback Quinnell Jones snatched a deep pass thrown from Reilly in fourth-down desperation. Jones took it 33 yards the other way. 27-20, Falcons. Exclamation point.
Again with a chance at a comeback, the Jaguars drove into Falcons territory on the following drive. Just when it looked like Valley Center was onto something, fate came knocking. Dropping back as he read his receivers downfield, Reilly was hit from behind by Scripps Ranch linebacker Couri Bryant. Reilly lost the ball. The Falcons recovered. Exclamation point, No. 2.
On the Falcons’ next drive, it happened again. And again, it was Bryant to deliver the ball-stripping blow. Exclamation point, No. 3.
Earlier in the week, Scripps Ranch Coach Joe Meyer said he wasn’t worried about who’s next on the schedule for whoever won this won — it’s the 8-2 Rancho Bernardo Broncos, by the way.
“If you don’t win this one, it doesn’t really matter,” Meyer said.
Well, congratulations, coach. You’ve won, and it now matters.