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Another view: PVL champion Placer Hillmen will go as far as defense can carry them

No. 1 seed in Div. IV to host Hilmar Friday
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Ten moments to remember from Placer’s 2012 football season
 
Week 1: Hillmen and Central Catholic combine to score 51 points in second quarter. 
Week 2: Denham hits Brahce for TDs of 30, 40 yards vs. Foothill of Palo Cedro.
Week 3: Placer routs Casa Roble hours after soccer players were involved in I-80 spill. 
Week 4: Hillmen nearly squander 21-point lead in wake-up call win vs. Yuba City. 
Week 5: Placer jumps out to 38-0 halftime lead to spoil Woodcreek’s homecoming.
Week 6: After taking 61-0 halftime lead, Vanderdoes is named homecoming king. 
Week 7: Hillmen defense blanks rival Bear River Bruins in 14-7 defensive battle.
Week 8: Granieri boots late field goal to lift Placer over Lincoln in final seconds. 
Week 9: Shirtless man gets walloped by former Hillman Minton-Sander at Colfax.
Week 10: Center QB Anderson slips on fourth down, giving Placer the PVL crown. 
 

 

 

Placer’s first half was uglier than the slop on the field at LeFebvre Stadium. 
 
The Hillmen entered the break trailing for the first time this year. 
 
After taking a 3-0 lead Placer fell behind 6-3 when Center’s D’Juan Bellaire capitalized on a short field two plays after a Todd Valliere fumble. Cougar quarterback Tyrel Anderson threw a touchdown and a two-point conversion to give his team a 14-3 lead after 24 minutes. 
 
With the Pioneer Valley League title on the line, the Hillmen put together their worst half of the season.
 
“We called them out,” coach Joey Montoya said of his players, when asked what he told them at halftime. “We said guys, ‘This is not us.’ 
 
“We knew that we were not playing at least to the level we know we’re capable of playing at. And they responded. The coaches made the adjustments and we were able to put together a great second half.”
 
After the ugly first half, Placer put together one sweeter than any leftover Halloween candy.
 
The Hillmen defense shutdown the dynamic duo of Anderson and Bellaire, Isaac Brahce and Valliere found pay dirt in second half, and Placer rallied to win its first PVL crown and complete a perfect regular season in a 15-14 classic.
 
“It’s an amazing feeling you can’t even describe,” said Brahce, who rushed for a game-high 156 yards.
 
Said Eddie Vanderdoes: “First time being 10-0 since 1980 is outrageous. I’m just lost for words right now.” 
 
The icing on the cake: The Hillmen (10-0, 5-0) were able to overcome four turnovers on Montoya’s 34th birthday. 
 
The coach’s b-day luck was best evidenced when Anderson slipped on the muddy, wet field at LeFebvre Stadium facing a fourth-and-2 with 1:13 to go at the Hillmen's 22-yard line.
 
“Home-field advantage,” Montoya quipped.
 
Speaking of home-field advantage, that’s exactly what the top-seeded Hillmen will have this coming Friday when they host Hilmar (6-4) Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Div. IV playoff opener. 
 
The Hillmen said Friday night they didn’t care who they played next and what division said team came from — they’re just glad to still be playing. And to say the Hillmen are excited for the playoffs would be an understatement.
 
“Oh heck yea! Ten-and-oh! PVL champs!” said Valliere, who was lost for words when asked about his title-clinching touchdown run scored with fewer than four minutes remaining. 
 
How many more times the Hillmen will suit up this year is up to their defense, which has been carrying the load for the past month. 
 
If the Hillmen are to make a deep playoff run for the section title — or a CIF state bowl game — it seems more likely to come based on stout defense rather than their early-season form of blowing opponents out. While the Hillmen scored 317 points in their first six games, they’ve totaled just 63 in their past four outings. 
 
Perhaps getting back to playing non-league foes, who aren’t accustomed to the Hillmen’s Wing-T attack, will lead to more touchdowns. Your guess is as good as mine.
 
Nonetheless, as long as the defensive line keeps up its strong play and Isaiah Pineiro keeps coming up with picks, the Placer defense should be able to hold its upcoming opponents to fewer points than the Hillmen offense scores.
 
But there’s still a lot of football to be played.
 
So don’t book your plane ticket to Carson — yet. 
 
Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel