Valley Center Jaguars 31, El Capitan Vaqueros 28

On "Breaking Down the Walls" night at Valley Center High School, the VCHS Jaguars defeated the visiting El Capitan Vaqueros 31-28 in an overtime thriller which truly could have gone either way.

Valley Center got on the board first with a one-yard touchdown run by running back Daniel Belcher (who set up his run earlier in the drive with a 36-yard carry). 

The scoring started a back-and-forth battle which would persist until the clock wound down to zero.

Valley Center seemed to take control in the first half, thanks to clutch catches from Keith Vasquez. Quarterback Rikki Mazzetti, albeit shaky at times, was hitting Jaguar receivers early and often.

Despite early opportunities, the Vaqueros were unable to pull together a scoring drive. Sacks and crucial incomplete passes from quarterback Phoenix Cates signaled that Valley was in the drivers seat. It wasn’t until a Mazzetti interception that the Vaqueros capitalized, as Yaphet Yokley caught a pass and took it 45 yards in for the first EC touchdown.

The game would then swing back into the favor of the home Jags, with Keith Vasquez making a diving catch in the end zone, putting up Valley Center going into halftime. That seven-point lead would be broken in the fourth quarter by a 15-yard touchdown grab by El Capitan’s Javier Vidalez in the right corner of the end zone. 

With the score tied 14-14, El Capital took the lead for the first time with a tip-toe catch on the sidelines by Vidalez once again, this time from eight yards out. On the ensuing drive, the hometown Jaguars put up a tying touchdown in the form of a six-yard touchdown reception by Quest Smith. 

In truly exciting fashion, the very next play was a dagger from the legs of El Capitan. On the kickoff after the Smith touchdown, El Capitan’s Star Iuli took the kick back 90 yards to the house, making the score 28-21 in favor of the Vaqueros with less than four minutes remaining.

On their next drive, tight end Trevor Gurski and running back Daniel Belcher combined their big plays to bring the Jaguars to the Vaquero 20 yard-line with 1:15 left on the clock. Belcher once again called his own number and took the ball in for another score, knotting up the cross-county contest at 28. A two-point conversion by Mazzetti was good, however, a critical false start penalty brought back a guaranteed win and forced VC to kick.

Regulation ended with poor drives and last-ditch efforts from both sides. El Cap continued their poor play by being stopped on fourth down on the two yard line on their first possession in overtime. Valley Center took advantage of this opportunity and rushed down to the two yard-line to set up a game-winning 20-yard field goal by kicker Alex Hakes to give Valley Center the 31-28 win.

Both offenses were humming at times, but ultimately the clutch play of the Valley Center Jaguars proved to be the difference. Looking forward, the passing of sophomore Rikki Mazzetti must improve if Valley Center is going to make a run at a potential D-II title. Many times Mazzetti had would-be interceptions dropped by El Capitan. Luckily he and Keith Vasquez were on the same page all night and connected for over 100 yards.

The Jaguars (2-1) will go into Imperial next week as the Vaqueros (0-2) look for their first win on the road against Patrick Henry.


In their first matchup in over a decade, the El Capitan Vaqueros (0-1) travel to North County to battle the Valley Center Jaguars (1-1).

Looking for its first win, El Capitan brings to this contest a roster on the verge of redemption. For a team that went to the state championship in 2014, last season was night a bright spot in the history of El Cap. Hoping to rebound from a disastrous 2-9 mark, the Vaqueros bring defensive stars such as Dylan Helmholtz to help earn back some wins.

With five CIF titles in the last 12 years, Valley Center is no stranger so success. This season, however, the Jaguars lack the talent and experience that they once had to win CIF championships. 

This year, a 27-21 Valley Center victory against Brawley stands between the two schools as the deciding factor.

Both teams have played Mater Dei Catholic this season, with seemingly similar results. The Jaguars lost 35-0, while the Vaqueros dropped their game 41-14. 

Against Mater Dei, the Jaguars allowed the Crusaders to not only score 35 unanswered points, but to put up 432 total yards, including 276 yards and five touchdowns on the ground from Oregon recruit CJ Verdell. In total, Mater Dei rushed for 307 yards and five touchdowns, while Chris Jones completed 8 of their 12 passes.

What really did the Jags in against MD was their lack of protection from the offensive line. Despite rushing for 168 yards, Valley Center’s front five gave up 10 tackles for loss to go along with nine QB hurries, four sacks and three fumbles. Because of this lack of protection, the passing game suffered. Sophomore QB Rikki Mazzetti completed just 46 percent of his 24 pass attempts for 126 yards and an interception with six of his passes being batted down.

If there was a bright spot for the Jaguars, it would have to be punter Christian Munoz. The senior punter averaged 45 yards per punt with two of his six kicks landing inside of the Crusaders’ 20 yard-line.  Not to mention, junior running back Ronnie McCowan rushed for 96 yards on just 14 carries (6.9 yards per carry average). 

In contrast, El Capitan was able to get pressure on the quarterback, recording nine tackles for loss along with five sacks (while allowing six tackles for loss and five sacks on their own line).

Overall, the EC defense faired much better against CJ Verdell, relatively shutting him down for just 113 yards and a touchdown (while allowing a total of 130 yards and just two touchdowns on 30 carries). Where the Vaqueros could use some help would be in the secondary. Mater Dei quarterback Chris Jones completed 15 of his 19 pass attempts for 203 yards and two touchdowns against El Capitan, as compared to 7-for-11 for 70 yards and an interception against Valley Center.

Despite an improved defense with big playmakers like Helmholtz (2.5 sacks, 17 tackles and four tackles for loss) and Oscar Valenzuela (nine tackles in first loss), El Capitan should have a hard time against such a balanced attack as that of Valley Center.

Overall, this will come down to a battle of defenses. Clearly EC has the upper hand in terms of run defense, but Valley Center has efficiency in terms of stopping passing through the air. 

Who will stop who on offense? That remains to be seen, but I think that it will be Valley Center gaining the upper hand in this contest with a couple of option runs up the middle, leaving the option to pass and burn corners down the field for a big gain. The one-two punch of Belcher and McCowan conveys the power of the Valley Center offense. 

Expect a close game, but the Jaguars should conquer the Vaqueros with a combination of a better secondary and more consistent pass defense. If the Jaguars want to win this game, they will have to utilize offensive threat in Keith Vasquez. 

Categories: 2014 PPR Archive, 2015 PPR Archive, 2016 PPR Features Part 1, 2016 PPR Features Part 2, Week 3: September 9, 2016