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Escalon wins sloppy Wing-T party at Placer

Hillmen’s win streak comes to an end as questionable calls continue
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Jake Lewis, in tears like many of his teammates, walked up to Joey Montoya and offered an apology.

“I’m sorry for hitting that guy late,” said the defensive lineman, giving his coach a hug as Placer’s dream season came to an end.

Montoya told Lewis it wasn’t just one play that determined the outcome of the game.

This all came minutes after Hillmen football fan Gary Merrill, a 1980 Placer alumnus, walked away from his seat at LeFebvre Stadium screaming.

“Worst officiating ever!” Merrill shouted. “They (the refs) gave them (Escalon) the game — twice.”

Merrill was asked which two calls he was referring to in his comment.

He said the roughing the passer call on Lewis, which led to a touchdown instead of a fourth-and-a-million situation, and a late-hit call that helped Escalon get down the field to get in position for an eventual last-second, game-winning field goal.

Nathan Chunn ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, Thomas Diniz barely got the ball over the crossbar for a 23-yard kick as time expired, and No. 8 Escalon upset top-seeded Placer 27-26 in a battle between two Wing-T offenses on a sloppy field at LeFebvre Stadium Friday night in Auburn.

“It’s rough,” said senior Isaac Brahce. “It’s a weird feeling. I don’t think it completely hit me yet. It’s weird thinking it’s my last game on this field. I’m not looking forward to when it all hits me.”

Escalon (10-2) jumped out to a 9-0 lead after getting a safety and a score on a 12-yard Chunn run.

Despite the early deficit, the previously unbeaten and Pioneer Valley League-winning Hillmen weren’t willing to go down without a fight. 

“We didn’t play a very good first half at all,” said linebacker Tony Suverkropp, whose Hillmen led 21-17 at the break. “We were winning, which was surprising considering how bad we played.”

Brahce had a 75-yard TD run and Todd Valliere also found the end zone on a 59-yard burst for Placer (11-1), which appeared on the verge of moving to the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV semifinals when it had a 26-17 lead late in the third quarter.

But the Cougars rallied back with a Phillip Kimble-to-Alec VonAlvensleben strike and Diniz’s game-winning kick — as both scoring drives were aided by the questionable calls.

The Hillmen held Chunn to little or none in the second half, but Kimble was able to get the passing game going with his team’s bread and butter stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Questionable calls have been a theme all season long throughout Placer football games, with more going against the Hillmen than not. On Friday night it appeared they played a huge part in ending the Hillmen’s season.   

“You definitely wonder but in the grand scheme you can’t point to these things,” Montoya said. “You just have to play the game. Unfortunately, things that were out of our control tonight hurt us. Whether it was the weather or the calls, or whatever — that’s football.”

Said Suverkropp: “What can you do? It’s the same white hat that was there for Lincoln. … What do you expect with the officiating? You can’t win them all I guess.”

Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel