By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The West Ranch Wildcats’ first game at home brought a win Friday against the Buena Bulldogs, 45-31. In the high-scoring matchup, the Wildcats proved too much for the Bulldogs, taking care of the ball and capitalizing each time they got the ball in the first half.
Wildcats head coach Chris Varner is proud of his team, but this game brings an extra element for Varner as he goes against a former player he coached at Buena in his first year as coach, and now the Bulldogs’ head coach, Ryan Bolland.
“I’m real proud of the kid,” said Varner. “It was nice, he’s a good kid and coach. He got his team prepared to battle. He’s got nothing to hang his head about and he’s got a great group of guys.”
Despite the pregame emotions, it was straight to business for the Wildcats.
Off the first play of the game, quarterback Brett Liljedahl caught the ball off a bouncing lateral from quarterback Ryan Staub to launch a 45-yard pass to wide receiver Brady Van Bennekum. The rest of the half belonged to Staub, who would then take over as the quarterback finishing with 121 yards and two touchdowns, including eight yards rushing with a rushing touchdown.
Staub would finish the game with 220 yards passing on 23 completions with 40 yards rushing to go along with his five total touchdowns.
“We had a tough loss last week and we put in the work in practice this entire week,” said Staub. “We don’t quit. We had two of our starting linemen out. Other guys stepped up big and we fought hard all game.”
Two of Staub’s touchdowns were caught by wide receiver Maverick Diaz, who finished the half with three catches for 53 yards to go along with his two touchdowns.
The story of the first half for both teams belonged to special teams, in which both missed an extra point, including one blocked by the Wildcats. The Bulldogs would also get a field goal blocked before the end of the half.
The Bulldogs stayed in the game with 83 yards on the ground, which they were able to capitalize on with a 24-yard passing touchdown — off a muffed 7-yard Wildcats punt — by quarterback Jack Chavarria to wide receiver Colin Guenthier. It was the lone first-half touchdown for the Bulldogs.
The second half offense remained much the same. Off of a kickoff penalty and unsportsmanlike conduct against the Wildcats, the Bulldogs blew the gates open with a 50-yard rushing touchdown by running back Jacob Murphy. The Wildcats quickly answered with a 47-yard rushing touchdown by running back Dylan Roof.
The Wildcats’ answer came from Diaz once again in the third quarter, this time on the defensive end, securing an interception in the end zone, stopping a long drive by the Bulldogs. It was ultimately the turning point of the game.
“I was just having a great time out there. My quarterback is a stud, we were just having a good time,” said Diaz. “I didn’t show up last week. I needed to show up this week and that’s what I did. We just got to keep riding this win into the next one.”
The Bulldogs would score again in the fourth quarter with a 6-yard touchdown rush by Murphy and a 1-yard touchdown by Zane Carter, but Staub’s 37-yard touchdown to wide receiver Dylan Cotti was enough to keep the lead for the Wildcats.
“We made the plays we had to,” said Varner. “Coming off a loss like last week, it was tough one. We got to finish third down conversions and we can’t do that.”
The Wildcats look to keep their win streak going against Antelope Valley on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Antelope Valley High School.