With less than a minute left in the game and the clock winding down, West Ranch found itself trailing Silverado by three points.
Quarterback Weston Eget dropped back and launched a 50-yard pass to wideout Jackson Reyes.
The junior playmaker caught the ball and took it to the house for the score, giving the Wildcats the 35-31 lead after the made PAT and their first playoff win in program history.
“Everything was in slow motion,” Eget said of the game-winning play. “I kind of closed my eyes and listened to which side cheered. I looked up and our side was cheering. I saw Jackson in the end zone. A lot of adrenaline was going through my body. I was excited.”
With 49 seconds left, the Wildcats defense had to step up one more time, just like they had been doing all game. The Hawks were able to get close, but not close enough, as West Ranch stopped them.
Of the 31 points that Silverado scored, 21 came on defense in a span of about four minutes in the first quarter.
Reyes was stripped of the ball and Silverado returned the fumble for a score. Eget was intercepted twice, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
After the first-quarter debacle, the Wildcats seemed to settle down and get their offense going.
After a big punt return from Ryan Camacho near the end of the first half, Eget connected with Jovan Camacho for a 35-yard score. He then found linebacker Zachary Van Bennekum for the two-point conversion, making the score 21-14 heading into halftime.
Eget finished the game 10-of-22 for 229 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Jovan was on the other end of two of those scores with five catches for 108 yards.
Van Bennekum was utilized all over the field, lining up as a fullback, tight end and his usual position at linebacker.
“He’s a specialist so we put him in there,” head coach Chris Varner said of Van Bennekum. “We had a little difficulty blocking their lineman so we just wanted a bigger body in there.”
Van Bennekum converted another two-point conversion in the third quarter after a 51-yard touchdown pass from Eget to Jovan. He also had two receptions for 19 yards.
“It was supposed to be a fake block and I sneak out and catch it and it worked perfectly both times,” Van Bennekum said. “The second time it got tipped but I was wide open. Weston threw great balls and it was executed perfectly.”
Along with Van Bennekum, linebackers Joseph Tempesta, Bryce Buchanon, Austin Schanks and the rest of the West Ranch defense were flying all over the field.
The defense held Silverado to only two scores, a touchdown and field goal — both of which came in the second half.
“Our defense is something special,” Eget said. “Every single play they give 110 percent, staying disciplined and making plays when we need it most.”
Ryan got the scoring going on the Wildcats’ first possession of the game after his brother Jovan took the opening kickoff for a big gain.
A few running plays later Ryan found himself in the end zone, giving the Wildcats the early lead.
Ryan scored once more on a 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
West Ranch advances to the second round of the Division 6 playoffs and will face Oxnard, who beat Palmdale 49-7 in its opening playoff match.
Like the Wildcats, the Yellowjackets come into the contest 9-2.
“We want to hold onto this feeling. We want to feel this after every single game,” Eget said. “We just have to keep working hard and take it week by week.”
“It’s a great win but we got to move forward, focus on next week,” Van Bennekum said. “Work harder in practice and come out swinging.”