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Vista's defense leads team to playoff win over Lancers, 49-20

By: Matt Long of the Telegraph
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When Vista met Cordova back in September, the Lancers scored 33 points with five passing touchdowns.

Thursday night in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, Vista’s defense came to play, holding the Lancers to 20 points and three touchdowns. One of Cordova’s touchdown came on a kickoff return in the third quarter. Another score early in the fourth quarter coming on a touchdown pass to star receiver Alvin Banks came well after the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt. In their first meeting, Banks caught eight passes for 231 yards and three scores. This time, the Eagles kept him in check and won the game 49-20.

“We focused in practice, keyed on their main players and played hard,” Vista senior safety Cade Bader said, who not only intercepted a pass but kicked three field goals of 27, 32, and 44 yards in the win.

Bader and Tyler Miller along with corners Daniel Dias and Chad Wilson were excellent in coverage all night long.

“We were much more physical this time and tackled better,” Wilson said. “We keyed their best players and built our plan around them. We’re a better defense now than we were early in the season.”

Helping the defensive backs was the play of the line. Nick Ellis, Andrew Cokley, Mason Calcagno continually pressured Cordova quarterback Johnele Sanders and not only had several sacks, but made it hard for him to throw accurate passes with all the pressure.

“The line did a good job of getting pressure,” Ellis said. “The secondary did their job, and the linebackers filled. We were pumped. We’ve gotten better through the weeks, and are playing more as a team.”

The coaching staff simply said the defense played better than in their earlier meeting against the Lancers.

“They came together and got it done,” defensive coordinator Ryan Munyer said. “Six weeks ago, we weren’t there yet, but these guys studied the film and did their jobs.”

While the Lancers struggled to move the ball all night long, the Vista offense did not. The Eagles scored on five of their six possessions in the first half, though three were field goals from Bader. Dominick Norris, who unofficially rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, scored the first points of the game on a one-yard run. The Eagles’ only other touchdown in the first half came on a 27-yard pass from Grant Patterson to Nate Hollingshaus. The rest of the points came on Bader’s three field goals and two-point conversions by Norris and Brenden Pugh, as the Eagles led 25-6 at halftime.

Vista didn’t slow in the second half. On the first play of the third quarter, Patterson threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Wilson. After Bader ended Cordova’s next possession with an interception, Norris scored on a 48-yard touchdown run to make it 37-6 and end any chance of a Cordova comeback.

Patterson later threw touchdown passes to James Veit and Wilson to finish the night with four TD passes.

“Grant is definitely maturing,” Vista coach Mike Struebing said. “He understands what we need and when we need it. I like a lot of the throws he made tonight.”

With the win, Vista advances to face fourth-seeded Patterson next week in the second round of the playoffs.