Hillmen run out of rallies

Placer gives Modesto Christian its toughest test before falling in title game
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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STOCKTON — Trailing 14-0 less than four minutes into Friday night’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game, the Hillmen believed they could come back. And they did. Down three touchdowns heading into the fourth quarter, the Placer High football team believed the game wasn’t over. And it wasn’t. But after 48 minutes of non-stop action, Modesto Christian’s spectacular offense proved to be too much. Placer lost a 61-40 shootout for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship Friday night at Lincoln High in Stockton. The Hillmen lost in the section title game for a second straight season. The Crusaders (14-0) took advantage of five second-half turnovers by the Hillmen to win their first section crown in football. They all but clinched a spot in one of the CIF State Bowl games. The parings will be announced today. After a tremendous effort to keep pace with Modesto Christian until the final minutes, many Placer players broke down in tears when time expired. An unwavering faith in their ability to rally made the loss tough to swallow. “We believed we were going to win until the end,” Placer senior Aaron Maddox said. “In the first quarter everyone just refused to accept that we were losing. In the second half it was in our grasp. We never had a doubt we were going to win the game.” The Hillmen mounted a furious rally to overcome the Crusaders’ early fireworks. Dalton Dyer’s two touchdown runs within a minute and a half tied the game. After Jerrad Weaver pounced on a Modesto Christian fumble, Josh Klem’s first touchdown catch of the year gave the Hillmen their only lead of the game just 14 seconds later. Asher Gotzmer added a 63-yard touchdown dash as the two wing-T offenses dueled to a 28-28 halftime draw. After turning the ball over three times in the first half, Modesto Christian took advantage of Placer’s miscues in the third quarter. The Crusaders scored three straight TDs — all off of Hillmen turnovers — to take a 46-28 lead. Placer didn’t quit. Gotzmer went back to work with two touchdown runs early in the fourth quarter to slash the Crusaders’ lead to just six points. But Isaiah Burse found Kevin Roya with his second touchdown pass of the game with 3 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game to all but seal the win. Placer’s final two drives ended in interceptions. “I’m just so proud,” Placer coach Joey Montoya said. “These kids have a ton of character to come back the way they did. The played their hearts out for 48 minutes. “Modesto Christian made some huge plays. (Burse) is a Division I player and he was the x-factor tonight.” Before Friday, Woodcreek was the only team to score more than 35 points on Placer all season. Modesto Christian’s offense and the improvisation of Burse made for an explosive combination. Burse finished with 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 183 and two scores. Roya, a speedy wingback, also had a huge game. He caught two touchdown passes, ran for three more and finished with 233 total yards. “When you fumble, you’ve just got to make up for it,” said Roya, who lost the ball twice in the game. Gotzmer was sensational himself, rushing for 199 yards and three TDs on 20 carries. Dyer finished with 109 yards on 11 carries and Josh Turney added 62 yards on 12 totes. The Crusaders knew Placer would present a challenge, but no one expected the shootout that ensued shortly after the opening kickoff. “We knew it was going to be a hard game,” Burse said. “We never expected to put up 61 points. We had some turnovers that hurt us, but our speed made up for everything.” Placer was looking to win its first section title since 1981, when Montoya’s grandfather Bill Miller co-coached the team with Tom Johnson. The Hillmen upset their way to the section championship game in 2008, but Maddox said this year was special from beginning to end. “I think we’ve been more of a family this year,” Maddox said. “We really fed off of last year and we’ve grown so much since then. We came up short tonight, but I think we accomplished a lot as a team.”