Hart football’s playoff journey ended at home against Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley on Friday 55-27, but the post-game atmosphere wasn’t entirely dismal.
A few tears were shed on the College of the Canyons field, but they were outnumbered by far by the number of heartfelt hugs and smiling poses for photos.
“Just playing with my boys, I’ve been playing with them since freshman year and it’s been a long ride,” said defensive tackle Tom Bambrick. “Kind of sad to see it go, but it’s what happens.”
The CIF-Southern Section Division 3 second-round loss stung, but the aftermath wasn’t bitter.
Rancho Verde (10-2) scored first when Xavier Ugorji danced 74 yards into the end zone. Mustangs quarterback Brock White connected with Jasiah Richard-Lewis, then Jordan Jefferson rushed nine yards to pull Rancho Verde to a 20-0 lead by the 7:38 mark in the second quarter.
Those four players would wreak havoc on the Indians for the remainder of the night.
Hart (8-4) dented the scoreboard for itself when Julian Salazar blocked a punt and Bambrick scooped it up for a score.
“It was pretty exciting,” Bambrick said of his first varsity touchdown. “Felt pretty great to finally score and get some points on the board and maybe turn the tide of the game. It felt amazing, to be honest.”
The Indians offense sputtered, though, and the defense gradually slowed as well. Shrout ended the game with four interceptions and a handful of near-interceptions as the Indians allowed the most points in any game this season.
“We really underestimated them, to be honest,” said Bambrick. “We had come off a really good defensive game last week and we really wanted to come in and stop the run, but a lot of missed tackles, a lot of blown coverages, calls not getting out. Mistakes killed us.”
The Mustangs scored twice more before Hart was able to counter with a 25-yard pass from JT Shrout to DJ Palmer.
Midway through the third quarter, Shrout threw a 30-yard pass to Da’Von Jones to bring the Indians within striking distance at 34-20.
Rancho Verde quickly silenced them on its next possession with a 15-yard touchdown pass from White to Richard-Lewis.
White then threw to Kamryn Woodson to give the Mustangs some breathing room at 55-20.
On the last score of the game, Shrout hit Ryan Schuman with a 24-yard pass.
“It’s been a hell of a season for us,” Bambrick said. “We were the team that people didn’t think would do well and we made the second round, so that’s pretty great.”