Vista opens football playoffs with 44-0 win over Lincoln

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Videotape is nice, but any coach will tell you it’s better to see a team live than on tape.

Chris Jones and his coaching staff got to see El Camino, Vista’s opponent Friday night in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, up close and personal Saturday when they played and defeated Sac High, 39-14. Vista, 10-1 on the season, plays host to 10th-seeded El Camino (8-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Prairie City Stadium.

“it’s good to see teams live,” Jones said. “They’re a playoff team and they’ve won a playoff game so they’re a good team. They run a Wing-T based offense and they do it well. Fortunately for us, the team we played last week, Lincoln, as well as Liberty Ranch and Bradshaw Christian, who we’ve played, run similar offenses. The one difference is El Camino might throw the ball a bit more out of it. We’ll have to play better this week.”

The Eagles are coming off an opening round 44-0 blowout victory over Lincoln. The Zebras did next to nothing offensively and rarely made it past midfield with drive after drive starting inside their own 20-yard line. Meanwhile, the Eagles were playing on a short field, rarely starting a drive any deeper than their own 40-yard line. After a sluggish first quarter, the Eagles scored often on their way to a big win.

Jones praised his defense after the game, telling them it’s nice to see a goose egg up on the scoreboard.

“We saw a physicality tonight that we haven’t seen in the history of our program,” Jones said. “We saw ball carriers’ heads snapping back. It was something else.”

The Zebras had the ball seven times in the first half and punted six times. The only time they didn’t punt was when a high snap prevented the punter from getting a kick off.

Vista scored on its first possession, as quarterback Matt Jimison finished off a nine-play drive with a short touchdown run. Jimison didn’t have a huge night, as he only threw two touchdown passes, but he was hampered by several dropped passes from his receivers.

“That was the negative tonight, the dropped passes,” Jones said. “Our offense didn’t get into rhythm and we do that by protecting the quarterback and completing passes. We’ve got to do better than that next week.”

Vista only led 6-0 after the first quarter, but scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to put some distance between themselves and Lincoln. Jimison threw a 12-yard score to Brad Rittenhouse for the first score. One minute and 43 seconds later, defensive end Chris Grunsky blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a special teams’ touchdown, his first touchdown of his varsity football career.

“It felt good to block that punt; especially to scoop it and score,” Grunsky said. “I have to give credit to my outside linebacker, Matt Winkler, who took on the lead blocker so I could get in there.”

Grunsky has been the Eagles’ leader on the defensive line all season and was happy with the team’s performance.

“We always play tough,” Grunsky said of the defense. “We’re a good defensive team. We work well together.”

Vista’s final points of the quarter came on a nine-yard pass from Jimison to Colin McCargo, who snagged a low throw just prior to it hitting the turf for the score. The Eagles led 27-0 at the break.

After blanking the Zebras in the first half, Vista’s defense scored some points of its own in the second half when Andrew Schantz picked off a pass and returned it 15 yards for six points with 7:20 to play in the third quarter.

“I thought the defense played great tonight,” Schantz said. “Evan Ewey, Brandon Kim and Grunsky did a great job pressuring the quarterback. I think the game goes to the defense tonight. We executed on every play.”

Josh Pfeffer later scored on a 50-yard run and Anderz Mintz added a 28-yard field goal to finish the scoring.

“Our defense and special teams were key tonight,” Jones said. “Anderz kicking off and Evan punting the ball are such great weapons and they really helped us win the field position battle.”