Hillmen motor past Foothill
It took 15 minutes for Foothill High to finally gain some momentum at Le Febvre Stadium Friday night. Placer snatched it back in 15 seconds thanks to an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jordan Ralls.
The Hillmen rode big plays and a stifling defense to a 45-21 victory in their regular season finale. The celebration was mellow after the crowd heard the news from Colfax that the Falcons wrapped up the Pioneer Valley League title with a win over Bear River. Placer finished 4-1 in the PVL, in second place behind undefeated Colfax.
Playing without senior running back Josh Turney and senior lineman Conor Gray, Placer had plenty of firepower to overwhelm the Mustangs, who finished 1-4 in their first year in the PVL.
Junior Joe Mangino rushed for 139 yards and one touchdown on just eight carries while Brad Spangler added two touchdowns and 44 yards.
Senior Darren Centi had another big night as a receiver, catching touchdown passes of 53 and 55 yards from Collin Burnett. Centi’s second TD came on the first play of the second half as Placer made sure to finish off Foothill after a subpar first half.
The Mustangs managed just one first down on their first three possessions of the second half and Mangino’s 43-yard dash early in the third gave Placer a commanding 42-14 bulge.
“We just needed to pick it up,” Placer senior Zach Winegar said. “We were treating it like a preseason game, but this was really important. We’ve got four big playoff games coming up.”
Foothill looked determined to feed the ball to senior Terrell Corbett, who was gunning for the PVL rushing title. He finished with 109 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. But the Placer defense rarely allowed the speedy tailback to get into the open field.
“We want to be the ultimate defense in all phases,” said Winegar, who missed five games earlier this season, but is back making plays on the defensive line. “We’re doing a good job of staying focused every week.”
Ralls has thrived as a reserve running back this season. But the speedy junior got his hands on a kickoff following Foothill’s first touchdown and knew just what to do with it.
“I didn’t think that was going to happen,” Ralls aid. “I just saw space in front of me and I picked the right hole.”
Ralls blazed down the Placer sideline for a touchdown that helped the Hillmen fend off the Mustangs, whom they beat to open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs in 2009. After finishing the schedule 8-2, Placer must wait to learn its fate for the upcoming postseason.
Whether they wind up in the Division III field or the familiar Division IV ranks when the playoff brackets are revealed Saturday evening, the Hillmen are confident. They ‘ve played in two consecutive Division IV section championship games.
Placer 21, Foothill 0 — The Hillmen finished off a stellar 8-1-1 campaign with a resounding win that was marred by an ugly ending. Officials halted the game with more than six minutes remaining after a series of personal fouls on both teams. During the postgame handshake, a fight broke out on the field and police were called in to restore order.
“One of our players was attacked and his teammates jumped in to help him,” Placer coach Don Packheiser said.
The coach added that no one was seriously hurt in the incident.
Bryan Berube caught a touchdown pass from Casey Yunk, Isaac Brahce had an 80-yard touchdown run and Brendan Packheiser added a 25-yard TD run for the Hillmen. Isaiah Pineiero and Tyler Lipsmeyer had interceptions for Placer. Micahel Valdez, Nathan Ralls, and Tony Suverkropp led the defense in the shutout.
“This team had an ability to handle adversity all year,” Packheiser said. “They finally came together. They’re a goofy group, but they’re talented and hard-working.”
Placer 32, Union Mine 0 — The Hillmen pounded the Diamonbacks to clinch a winning season at 5-4-1.
Cameron Scott capped an impressive season with 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Todd Valliere ran for one touchdown and returned an interception 40 yards for another. Kelton McDonald added a rushing TD.
Defensive standouts for Placer included Zach Phillips and Valliere, who both had in terceptions. Nick Moore and Phillip Tuttle led the defensive line while the secondary of Noah Daly, Blake Lipsmeyer, Adam Zehm, Hugo Lopez and Tyler Murton allowed just two completed passes on the night.