The West Ranch football team played an emotionally-charged game against Temecula Valley on Friday night.
The Wildcats (10-3) beat Woodrow Wilson of Long Beach the week prior to secure a spot in the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 semifinals for the first time in program history. They beat the Bruins just a few days after the events that unfolded at Saugus High School on Nov. 14 in front of a massive crowd that probably had more Centurions than Wildcat fans in it.
The emotion from that game carried over into Friday’s game against Temecula Valley. On top of that, some West Ranch players were mourning the death of former teammate Sebastian “Bash” Gallegos, who died in a car accident on Wednesday.
“It’s a lot,” said West Ranch running back Reiger Burgin. “It took a lot out of us and it took a lot for us to come here and it was just hard. We did this for everyone, we did it for Bash, we did it for Saugus, but we came up a little short.”
The Cats walked away disappointed, but proud after losing 31-28 to the Golden Bears in Temecula Valley on Friday.
Making it to the semifinals capped off not only an emotional season but a historic one as well.
In addition to the inaugural semifinals appearance, West Ranch also had the best start in program history. The Wildcats won the first eight games of the season before falling to Hart, then Valencia, to close out the Foothill League season.
Wildcats quarterback Walker Eget bested his older brother, Weston’s record for passing touchdowns in a season. Walker threw for 40 touchdowns this season, while Weston had 25 in the 2018 season.
“These kids, when they reflect upon it, what they did was amazing,” said Cats coach Chris Varner after the game, “and something West Ranch had never done and they should be really proud of themselves.”
Zach Van Bennekum racked up a season-high for receiving yards on Friday night against Temecula Valley. Against the Golden Bears, he had eight receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown, surpassing his previous single-game high of 101 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
He and junior quarterback Walker Eget got into a groove in the second half and the rest of the offense and defense followed. Eget was able to find Van Bennekum for short passes, then Van Bennekum was able to pick up a handful of yards after each catch.
“Kind of a slow start, but I think we kind of woke up a bit and I think the second half we played a lot better,” Varner said. “We got some stops and we just couldn’t get one at the end.”
Van Bennekum has been a reliable target all season for junior quarterback Walker Eget, along with fellow receivers Brandon Wyre and Nick Kohl. Van Bennekum ranks third behind those two in terms of receiving yards with 1,041 but leads the team in receiving touchdowns with 12.