Placer off and running: Hillmen win opener, have ‘kinks’ to work outBy: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
MODESTO — Joey Montoya had plenty of praise to describe the aftermath of his Placer High School football team’s 48-30 opening-night victory at Central Catholic in Modesto on Friday night.
But when talking about the negative aspects of the Hillmen’s game, one word from the coach’s mouth stood out more than any other:
“For as sloppy as we played, it was good to come out on top,” Montoya said. “We had quite a bit of turnovers that weren’t caused; we allowed a couple of big plays on defense. The good news is the things to fix can be fixed.”
The Hillmen (1-0) botched several snaps at the line of scrimmage. They were fortunate to fall on the ball more often than not.
Placer was also fortunate to jump out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter behind touchdown runs by Todd Valliere, Isaac Brahce and Michael Robinson, thanks in part to the Hillmen defense forcing two turnovers that led to 10 points.
But Placer’s defense, which got off to a perfect start with six straight stops including an Isaiah Pineiro interception, would bend.
Just when it seemed like Central Catholic (1-1) was in for a long night, the Raiders put together scoring drives of 80, 73 and 70 yards, including touchdown runs of 74 and 40 yards by running back Ray Lomas IV (203 yards, 22 carries). The other score came on a 46-yard pass from Raiders quarterback Donovin Townsend to Nathan Loya.
The big plays put Central Catholic back in the game at 31-23 late in the second quarter.
Montoya wasn’t the only one who used the “S” word to describe the opener.
“Looking back at yesterdays game n thinking not satisfied at all,” Hillmen defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, who had one sack, wrote on Twitter. “Thought we looked a little sloppy on both sides. But #4 was hard to tackle!”
That No. 4 was Lomas, a 5-foot-7, 183-pound elusive, Maurice Jones-Drew-like back. Lomas had big runs of 15, 74, 40, 25 and 25 yards against the Hillmen defense, which allowed fewer than 100 yards in the air.
“It’s the first week and they had a game before this,” said two-way player Brahce, who ran for 139 yards and two scores. “They got to work out all of the kinks. ... We need to work on the kinks and tighten things up.”
Vallerie, another two-way player who had 63 yards on the ground and caught two balls for 80 yards, agreed that the Hillmen can improve off of their Week 1 victory.
“There’s always something to work on, but I’m just proud of my teammates,” he said. “We’ll go to practice on Monday and work on whatever coach wants to work on.”
One area the Hillmen don’t need to worry about working on too much before Friday’s showdown at Oakridge with Foothill of Palo Cedro, which beat Reed of Nevada 50-33 in its opener, is their run blocking.
Brian Sabins, Jake Lewis, Connor Rubio, Wyatt Decker, Athen Allinger, Stone Sander and Bryan Berube collectively were able to open up holes for the backs.
“We’ve got a great offense, a great offensive line,” Vallerie said. “The line was
working really hard.”
Robinson rushed for 93 yards and two scores, including runs of 23 and 15 yards. Valliere had a big run for 25 yards and Brahce broke loose for runs of 46, 38 and 20 yards.
Brahce even had a run of about 60 yards called back because of an inadvertent whistle, when it appeared as if the referees were confused by the Hillmen’s Wing-T offense and didn’t know which player was the ball carrier.
Despite the fact that Montoya said his team played “sloppy,” he added, “We had a lot of positive things. ... Our kids played really hard.”
Reach Matthew Kimel at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel