Wildcats’ special teams highlight big win

West Ranch High School’s Ryan Camacho lunges for extra yardage as St. Genevieve High School’s Howie Huerta (5) and Javier Fernandez (7) bring him down in the first quarter on Friday, Aug. 31 at Valencia High School. Kevin Karzin/For The Signal

For the first three games of the season, it’s been the same story for West Ranch football: an offensive onslaught and defensive superiority.

Now, add special teams to the mix.

The Wildcats defeated St. Genevieve Friday night 46-24 behind dazzling performances from Jackson Reyes, brothers Ryan and Jovan Camacho, an impressive defensive effort and a special teams showcase.

The Wildcats (3-0) scored on two kickoff returns, one from Jovan and one from Reyes. Jovan also added an 85-yard punt return for a score.

“Everytime the ball gets kicked to us we’re looking to return it to the house,” Ryan said. “We’re looking to make as many big plays as possible on special teams, not just offense and defense.”

“We work on special teams a good amount so it’s pretty solid,” Jovan added. “We have a lot of athletes who can produce what we’re looking for. On both sides of the ball, we can do anything.”

While the touchdown returns highlighted the tremendous special teams play, the Wildcats defense was just as dominant.

West Ranch hurried the St. Genevieve (1-2) kicker, forcing a miss on one attempt and junior linebacker Zachary Van Bennekum blocked another field goal attempt.

“I don’t practice it regularly, although I hope it does happen a lot,” Van Bennekum said with a smile. “It was cool that I got in there and just tipped it.”

Van Bennekum along with fellow linebackers Joseph Tempesta, Bryce Buchanan and Austin Schanks combined for seven tackles for loss, giving Valiants running back Malachi Meeks little room to operate.

“We might not be as big of a defense, but we’re quick,” Tempesta said. “We meet those guys as soon as the guards are pulling. We meet them right there at the line of scrimmage and stop them in their tracks and make those tackles in the backfield.”

Meeks was able to score twice on the ground in the second half, but it was too little too late. The Wildcats had built a 32-3 cushion at halftime.

In addition to his kickoff and punt return scores, Jovan added a 20-yard touchdown in the first quarter on a strike from quarterback Weston Eget.

Ryan had a total of six carries for 165 yards, breaking off a 45-yard score early in the first quarter and a 78-yard scamper in the second.

While the Camacho brothers took a breather, the Wildcats’ offense didn’t skip a beat with Reyes all over the field.

He was electric on his kickoff return, bouncing off several St. Genevieve defenders and breaking tackles on his way to the 80-yard touchdown. He also added an 11-yard rushing touchdown to seal the deal at the end of the game.

“It’s fun being able to know when we’re taking breaks we can have fun watching our friends do the same exact thing,” Jovan said. “I’m glad that Jackson is doing what he’s doing.”

West Ranch will try to protect their undefeated record when they take on Royal on Friday, Sept. 7 in its second road tilt of the season.

This post was last modified on August 31, 2018, 11:50 pm

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