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Hillmen spoil Vista's Homecoming; defeat the Eagles 43-28

By: by Jeff Nicholson
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A game that featured more than 800 yards of total offense could be summed up by the punters.

Vista del Lago punted twice. Placer’s punter never left the sideline.

In a game full of big plays on both sides, the Eagles allowed the Hillmen to convert four-  of-five fourth downs and came up short in the shootout, 43-28, on Friday night at Vista’s homecoming. It was a bitter taste of turnaround being fair play for the Eagles, who last season crushed Placer, 56-14, on Placer’s homecoming.

“That’s the game we’ve gotten the last four years from them, and that’s how it’s gone every year,” Vista del Lago coach Mike Struebing said. “We have a great deal of respect for how they go about things.”

Dominick Norris did his part, running 16 times for 118 yards and a pair of scores, and adding a screen pass reception for 20, but his relatively low carry total reflected Vista’s inability to stop Placer from marching up and down the Eagles’ new home field.

That was largely due to the Hillmen’s punishing ground game, led Friday by fullback Mario Perez, who punished the Eagle defense to the tune of 197 yards and two scores on 29 carries.

“We were trying to find a way to get some stops,” Struebing said. “We missed some tackles. Just got to find a way to make a play. We have to make a play when it’s there.”

Perez also added a pair of two-point conversions, one running and one receiving on a broken play that typified the night for both teams. It was the first play of the fourth quarter, and Placer had just scored to push the margin to 34-20. The Hillmen lined up to try an extra point, but the ball rolled away from the holder. Ryan Meyer, Placer’s kicker, picked the ball up and tried to run it in to the left, but he could see he had no hope. With Eagles closing in on him, he jump and pushed a pass to Perez, who caught it and ran in untouched.

So it went for Vista all night.

Vista looked sharp early, as quarterback Grant Patterson found Chad

Wilson 48 yards down the field to open the scoring. That combination

would prove to be fruitful throughout the game. Patterson finished 10-for-19 for 231 yards and two touchdowns, while Wilson caught four balls for 100 yards and a score.

“We’ve got really high expectations for Grant,” Struebing said. “He does a wonderful job. Chad’s a good one. We need to keep working and developing him. It’s nice to see these guys growing together.”

The Eagles, of course, went for two and got it, taking the 8-0 lead.

Placer’s opening drive looked to be in jeopardy when a sack of quarterback Michael Stuck left the Hillmen with third-and-16 on their own 38. They gave the ball to Perez, who plowed through the middle for 12 hard yards to set up Placer with fourth-and-four at the 50.

Placer coach Joey Montoya figured going in the game could be a shootout, and he never hesitated. He went for it.

Stuck found Travis Warren – another potent QB-WR combo – for eight yards and a first down. Six plays later, Marshall Chapman found a hole between the center and

the right tackle and scored from the six. Placer’s attempt at two failed, leaving the Eagles ahead, 8-6.

But the blueprint for the evening had been written.

The Eagles were forced to punt on their next possession – and in this game, a punt was like a turnover. Stuck hit Anthony Kerrigan for a 28-yard score, and Perez pushed the

ball into the end zone to convert for two, and Placer took a 14-8 lead.

The Eagles, aided by two Placer personal fouls, took possession on the Hillmen’s 38 as the first quarter came to an end. Norris ran right up the middle and broke a tackle to take the ball down to Placer’s six on the first play of the second quarter. He

punched it in two plays later, but he was unable to carry the ball across the line on the conversion attempt, and the score was knotted at 14-14.

Back came Placer, as Marshall Chapman broke free for a 61-yard rush to set the Hillmen up for another score. They eventually cashed in on a Perez one-yard touchdown to take a 21-14 lead.

Patterson and Wilson hooked up twice on Vista’s next possession, and Norris finished it off with his second touchdown, but again the conversion attempt failed, so Placer still led, 21-20.

And again the Hillmen drove the field, running down the clock in the process, until they  faced a fourth-and-goal at Vista’s one with one second left on the clock.

Would they kick? Of course not. Perez scored his second touchdown, as Placer held a 28-20 lead at the break. With the Hillmen getting the ball first in the second half, the Eagles knew they would have to find an answer on defense.

In a way, they did. Placer took the opening possession of the third quarter down the field again, but the Hillmen, who had converted all four fourth-down attempts in the first half, faced another fourth down, fourth-and-four, at Vista’s 13.

They got three. Vista held.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, a holding penalty negated a big pass play, and they were forced to punt again.

Placer would take advantage with the early touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it a two-score game.

Patterson connected with Mitchell Northcutt, who split two defenders, for a 40-yard score to cut the deficit to 36-28, but the Eagles could not stop the Hillmen from running out the clock.

“Placer did such a good job of getting off the ball. I’m not sure we were ready for that,” Struebing said.

The loss left Vista at 2-3 heading into its bye week. The Eagles open Capital Athletic League play at Casa Roble on Oct. 6.

“The biggest thing is we’re healthy,” Struebing said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys up right now who now have five games of experience. We feel really good about that heading into league.”