Golden Valley and West Ranch entered the first week of Foothill League play undefeated at Canyon High School on Friday night.
Both teams leaned on their running attack to begin the game as West Ranch scored 17 points by halftime and piled on another 35 points in the second half to hand the Grizzlies their first loss of the season in a 52-13 win.
Needing just four plays to score on the game’s opening drive, West Ranch running back Reiger Burgin busted through the middle of the Golden Valley defense and rumbled down the field for a 55-yard score just under two minutes into the game.
Things cooled down until West Ranch (6-0 overall, 1-0 Foothill League) intercepted a pass from Golden Valley’s quarterback Austin Garcia with under 10 minutes remaining in the half.
“Absolutely huge, we worked on this for two weeks,” said West Ranch head coach Chris Varner of the Grizzlies’ turnovers. “We had the bye week to kind of prepare and Coach Kelley does a heck of a job getting his guys ready and that was our main thing. I was very worried about the run game, that was our whole goal to get them stopped and get them passing.”
Three plays later, Wildcats running back Derek Miranda made good on the Golden Valley turnover and caught a screen pass from Walker Eget for a 21-yard touchdown to go up 14-0 with 7:58 left in the first half.
Golden Valley (5-1, 0-1) went three-and-out on the following drive and punted the ball to midfield. West Ranch took over driving down the field, but the Grizzlies’ defense held stout and forced West Ranch to kick a 24-yard field goal that Richard Padilla kicked through the uprights to extend the West Ranch lead to 17-0 heading into halftime.
On the Grizzlies’ second drive of the second half, skill player Johnathan Kaelin went streaking down the left sidelined for an Austin Garcia pass and came down awkwardly. Kaelin stayed down for a minute or two until he was helped off the field by teammates. He later returned to the game.
Two plays later, Garcia connected with Mekhi Newton for a 33-yard touchdown pass to get the Grizzlies on the board 17-7.
West Ranch responded with a three-play, 54-yard drive that ended with Burgin’s second rushing touchdown of the night from 5 yards out. Returning the favor with three plays, Golden Valley answered with a 42-yard touchdown reception from Jaxson Miner to Maki Bey.
Wildcats speedster Jackson Reyes ran the ensuing kickoff in for a West Ranch touchdown to make it 31-13 with 4:24 left in the third.
“We had several backs do some really good things, Reiger is kind of our workhorse and we have a changeup with (Derek) Miranda and Jackson (Reyes), we have a few guys that can do it,” Varner said. “We wanted to go to the stable a lit bit more than we have ever done tonight just to keep everyone fresh and it worked out for us.”
After a Miner fumble, Eget found Brandon Wyre, who broke multiple tackles, for a 42-yard score. Wyre struck again, this time on a 43-yard touchdown reception with 10:53 left in the game.
The Grizzlies turned the ball over on the following two drives and Burgin scored his third rushing touchdown with 6:46 remaining to cap the victory for the Wildcats.
Both teams are back in action on Friday as Golden Valley hosts Saugus at Canyon, while West Ranch hosts Canyon at Valencia. Both games kick off 7 p.m.