Saugus High’s football team capitalized on a pair of early West Ranch turnovers, building enough of a lead to hold off the Wildcats in a 42-21 Centurions victory on a windy Thursday night at Valencia High.
“The name of the game is being able to take advantage of opportunities like that and turn them into points,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn.
West Ranch coughed up the ball up on the first play from scrimmage, giving Saugus the rock on the Wildcat 28-yard line. Seven plays later, sophomore running back Vinny Gallagher found the end zone from 8 yards out for his first score of the night. Gallagher paced the Saugus offense throughout the evening, racking up 101 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
“Our O-line blocked and everyone worked together to get the win,” Gallagher said.
West Ranch’s sophomore quarterback Ryan Staub — who split playing time with fellow sophomore Brett Liljedahl — was intercepted by Saugus sophomore Austin Treahy on the second drive. Senior Wildcat Walker Eget, a San Jose State commit, was sidelined to give the youngsters some playing time, said West Ranch head coach Chris Varner.
On the ensuing Saugus possession, the Centurions marched 65 yards to extend their lead to 14-0 when junior receiver Sebastian Dallaire made an impressive one-handed grab off an 11-yard pass from senior quarterback Colton FitzGerald with 5:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
West Ranch went three-and-out on their next possession. A short punt gave Saugus the ball on the West Ranch 35-yard line. Saugus went back to Gallagher, who rushed into the end zone from 8 yards out.
West Ranch responded by driving 79 yards, relying heavily on junior running back Derek Miranda, who finished the night with 50 hard-earned yards on 15 carries. On 4th-and-goal from 6 yards out, a scrambling Staub hit senior receiver Nicholas Kohl in the end zone to put West Ranch on the board with 9:53 remaining in the second.
“I’m very proud of their effort,” Varner said of the Wildcats. “We had two young quarterbacks getting some time tonight, and it was nice to see them get some real game experience.”
A combination of powerful wind gusts and solid defensive efforts kept both teams scoreless in the third quarter.
“The wind was a factor,” Bornn said. “You have to adjust.”
Both teams traded scores in the fourth.
Saugus converted on a trick play on 4th-and-5 from the West Ranch 10-yard line. Dallaire swung around the backfield to grab a reverse toss and found a streaking FitzGerald up the right sideline for the score.
“We had to do something to shake it up,” Bornn said, crediting West Ranch’s defense.
West Ranch responded with a lengthy drive of its own, capped by a 5-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Ike Sibal with 5:33 remaining in the fourth.
Saugus came back with a 16-yard touchdown run from Viger before West Ranch’s Kohl caught a 7-yard pass for a score late in the fourth.
Varner said he’s pleased with his team’s younger players stepping in to replace injured starters.
“We’ve had some injuries and opportunities for kids to step in,” he said. “These guys will be here the next couple of years. It’s good experience.”
West Ranch wraps up the regular season at 7 p.m. Thursday on the road against Hart.
Bornn insisted it’ll be business as usual at practice next week as Saugus prepares to battle Foothill League juggernaut Valencia at 7 p.m. next Friday for the league crown.
“We’ve gotten this far focusing on us,” Bornn said. “We’re all about us being the best version of us.”
Gallagher has high hopes for Saugus.
“I think we’re the better team,” he said. “We’re going to come out with everything we’ve got to try to get that win.”