Vista takes control of SVC with 35-34 win over WolfpackBy: Matt Long/Telegraph Sports Editor
Despite blowing a 14-point lead and having a handful of questionable calls go against them, Vista del Lago rose above the adversity to pull off one of the biggest wins in the history of their program.
In a battle of Sierra Valley Conference unbeatens, the Eagles defeated Cosumnes Oaks 35-34 on Friday night to put themselves in the driver’s seat for a league title. All Vista has to do is beat Union Mine in the regular-season finale on Nov. 2 to earn their first league title all to themselves.
Matt Jimison led the Eagles on a nine-play, 56-yard drive in the final three minutes before hooking up with Brad Rittenhouse from three yards out with 29 seconds remaining to tie the game at 34. Anderz Mintz’ extra point proved to be the difference. J.T. Winkler secured the win with an interception on the game’s next-to-last play to send the Eagles into a frenzy.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Vista coach Chris Jones said. “They kicked butt all week and when things got tough tonight, they dug down and were OK with it. We grew up quite a bit tonight.”
Leading 14-7 at halftime, the Eagles took the ball in the ever-important opening drive of the second half and scored on a 51-yard scoring strike from Jimison to Rittenhouse for a 21-7 lead.
Cosumnes Oaks promptly answered with a four-yard touchdown run by Kaelin Willhite, but a fumbled snap on a punt attempt later gave the Eagles the ball at the Cosumnes Oaks 11-yard line. Two plays later Jimison hooked up with Cooper from 13-yards out and the Vista held a 28-14 lead with 2:37 to play in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack, however, scored a pair of touchdowns in less than two minutes and tied the game at 28 with 9:09 to play in the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, Jimison threw behind Tyler Kaim and Keven Walker picked off the pass and Cosumnes Oaks had great field position at the Vista 33-yard line.
Three plays later, Jordan Ares scored on a one-yard run, but Matt Barmby’s extra point was short and the Wolfpack led 34-28 with 2:50 to play.
If the Eagles were shocked in the reversal of fortune, they didn’t show it. They put together a game-winning drive that had everyone celebrating. On the third play of the drive on third-and-four from midfield, Jimison escaped heavy pressure and completed a 21-yard pass to Rittenhouse to give the Bulldogs the ball at the 29-yard line.
With 39 seconds remaining, Vista faced a third-and-six at the 12-yard line. Jimison threw a strike on the sideline to Colin McCargo for a nine-yard gain and a first down. On the next play, Jimison found Rittenhouse on a corner route and a game-tying touchdown. Mintz’ extra point gave the Eagles the one-point lead and Winkler’s interception sealed the win.
“We work on our two-minute drill every Thursday in practice so we were ready,” Jimison said. “I just put my interception (from the previous drive) behind me. I wanted to be conservative with the ball. If it wasn’t there I was going to tuck it and run. I just wanted to move the ball down the field. The line gave me a ton of time tonight and Feff (Josh Pfeffer) was great tonight and Tyler Kaim did a good job blocking on our bubble screens.”
Rittenhouse had his hands full with Cosumnes Oaks’ wide receiver Alex Van Dyke, who scored three touchdowns. Any trouble he had, however, was forgotten about after he caught the winning touchdown.
“I ran a corner route and I had to go up and get it because we needed it,” Rittenhouse said of his catch. “It felt great. It feels amazing to win this league title. I can’t take the credit, though. It’s a 22-man game and it was a team effort. I was definitely scared there for a while, but we had to keep a positive attitude and we persevered. We reached down and pulled out the win.”
Vista’s first-half touchdowns came on a Jimison-to-Kaim hook up from five yards and an 11-yard run from Pfeffer.
Vista del Lago’s junior varsity team suffered a 20-14 loss, as Cosumnes Oaks remained unbeaten in league play. Ryan Wert threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tyler Steinlein and Daniel Morgan, but it wasn’t enough.
“I feel we played well,” Vista coach Dennis Valencia said. “We lost to the eventual league champion and there’s no shame in that. Our guys left it all out on the field and that’s all I can ask. We came back and never gave up.”
Valencia said cornerbacks Antonio Mulqueeney and Eric Friessen stepped up and played great games.
“Cosumnes Oaks had tall receivers and our corners were outstanding,” Valencia said.
The freshman team lost a tough one to the Jesuit, 27-14.
The first half of the game was a defensive struggle with a halftime score of 7-6 after a 64-yard TD pass to Jacob Sampson. The Eagles came out in the second half and after a sustained drive threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. On Jesuit’s next possession, they scored on a broken defensive read that resulted in a 40-yard rushing touchdown, which brought the score to 20-6.
The Eagles then answered with their own 70-yard offensive drive that resulted in a rushing touchdown by Ney Vencer, making the score 20-14 after a successful two-point conversion from Blake Martin to Sampson. The Eagles were then able to get a stop against Jesuit, only to throw another costly interception that was again returned for a touchdown, resulting in the final score of 27-14.
Trent Jas led the defensive battle with three sacks, followed by great defensive performances from Nick Williams, Wade Thomson and Blake Martin. Offensively, the Eagles saw great performances from Sampson and Austin Palmieri, who combined for 134 receiving yards.