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Second-half woes are Wildfires’ undoing against Encina

By: Nick Pecoraro
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FORESTHILL‒ The Wildfires went into the intermission on a homecoming Friday night with an even 0-0 on the scoreboard with just 24 game minutes remaining to make a move.

But it was Encina Prep who made all the right moves, scoring 24 second-half points, including 16 in the fourth quarter to Foresthill’s six en route to a 24-6  victory on the road.

Encina moved to 2-0 in the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League after a second straight week of late game scoring. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs faced a two-point deficit heading into the final quarter against Valley Christian Academy but had a 24-point fourth-quarter surge that upended the Lions, 40-16.

Foresthill saw firsthand how good this Encina team can be.

“They did exactly what we saw from them on film,” said Foresthill head coach Steve Collier. “We may have under-gauged just how athletic they are all across the board.”

A scoreless first half turned into an 8-0 Encina lead by the end of the third quarter. Then the lead ballooned into a 24-0 cushion by late in the fourth.

Collier said Encina’s ability to convert on third-and-long and even fourth-and-long was what haunted the Wildfires in the second half.

“They had a long bomb where we were beaten in coverage, just a nice vertical route,” said Collier. “Their quarterback was very shifty, and all of a sudden, we were down 24-0.”

Foresthill’s lone score came late in the fourth quarter when Kaiden Pennington hit Nick Lechner for a touchdown toss to get on the board.

“I was happy that we were able to contain (Encina) for the entire first half,” Collier said. “It was a small victory.”

Foresthill (3-4, 1-1) will look for a big victory next week when they travel to play defending SMAL champion Woodland Christian (2-4, 1-0).

As far as playoff talk goes, the Wildfires are a bubble team in Maxpreps’ Division VII Sac-Joaquin Section rankings, where they sit at No. 11. The top six teams in D-VII will earn playoff berths with only a league title guaranteeing a postseason spot.

“The easy way (to get in the playoffs) would be to win league, which is also the hard way,” said Collier. “We’ll have to raise our value by putting up points.”