With an undefeated record and the best start to a season in program history, the West Ranch football team was hot.
Hart, conversely, was simmering at a low boil. At least until Friday night, when the Indians finally hit their stride and unleashed a plethora of weapons to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season with a 31-26 win at College of the Canyons.
“So much preparation, so much time, went into this weeks film study for all the players and it just feels fantastic to come out and just play like monsters,” said Hart’s Ashton Thomas. “It feels good. Blessed.”
That’s not to say the game wasn’t competitive. West Ranch’s Jovan Camacho picked off a Zach Johnson pass with 3:15 to go in the first quarter, but the Cats (8-1 overall, 3-1 in Foothill League) were unable to capitalize.
Johnson compensated for the interception by throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Drew Munoz. A minute and 30 seconds later, Ryan Camacho broke loose for a 50-yard run for a touchdown to even the score at 6-6.
The two teams traded touchdowns midway through the second quarter, first with Taden Littleford scoring on a 1-yard run for Hart (5-4, 2-2) at the 6:44 mark, then with Ryan Camacho going on a 60-yard tear for West Ranch at 5:32.
Aaron Rodriguez put the Indians up 15-12 with a field goal with 1:49 left in the first half.
On the first play of the Cats’ ensuing possession, Jacob Montes intercepted a Weston Eget pass to set up a 2-yard rushing touchdown romp from Littleford.
“Coach told us all week they’re going to run the screen against us, they’re going to run the screen against us,” Montes said. “That put me in the perfect position to make a play.”
On the other side of halftime, Eget pitched to Jovan Camacho for a 7-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 22-18 in Hart’s favor with 4:24 left in the third quarter after Thomas blocked the PAT.
Thomas remained in the spotlight, catching an 11-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to make it 28-18.
The Wildcats closed the gap to 29-26 near the nine-minute mark on an 82-yard touchdown run by Ryan Camacho.
“We had to be fast and we had to break down and make our tackles,” Montes said. “We missed a couple and it hurt big, but we did what we had to do.”
Hart had an opportune scoring chance with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but an attempted pass from Johnson to Montes from the 5-yard line was ruled incomplete.
However, Dillon Vradenburg recorded a safety on the Wildcats’ very next play to secure the win.
“It’s a little late, but it’s all uphill from here,” Montes said of his team’s momentum.”