By Jonathan Andrade
For The Signal
West Ranch capped its best Foothill League campaign in program history Friday night by defeating Hart 21-16 at College of the Canyons.
“It was a great way to finish the (regular) season,” said West Ranch quarterback Ryan Staub, a senior who threw two touchdowns and rushed for another.
The Wildcats (4-1 in league) finished second in the Foothill League, with its lone loss coming against undefeated league champion Saugus, who benefitted this week from a forfeiture by a COVID-ravaged Valencia program.
West Ranch’s season continues next Friday with the CIF-Southern Section postseason.
“Our goal is CIF (title),” Staub said. “We want it all. We know we have the team and the pieces to do it.”
Hart was 24 minutes from claiming a share of second place in league after a dominant first half.
The Indians maintained possession the entire first quarter on a 20-play drive before nailing a field goal on the first play of the second quarter to take the early 3-0 lead.
“Forty-four years of coaching and I don’t think we’ve ever gone a whole quarter on our first drive,” said Hart head coach Rick Herrington.
After West Ranch went three-and-out on their opening possession, Hart added a touchdown by senior running back Donovan Dunn to extend the Indians’ lead to 10-0.
“We played really well in that first half,” Herrington said.
The Wildcats weren’t concerned by the halftime deficit.
“We know we can score 14 to 21 points in a quarter,” Staub said. “At halftime, we had to make an adjustment to come out hot. That’s what we did.”
A misdirection play worked beautifully, leaving Staub with open space and a clear view of the endzone five plays into the third quarter. He sprinted 65 yards to get West Ranch on the board.
Two possessions later, Staub found receiver Blake Schroeder wide open up the middle for a 53-yard touchdown strike.
“Those were two big plays we knew (West Ranch) was going to run and guys just forgot their assignment,” Herrington said of the Hart defense.
West Ranch padded its lead in the fourth quarter when Staub threaded a pass between Hart defenders in the corner of the end zone to hit junior Chaz Hilst for the eventual game winner.
Hart sophomore Tim Larkins scored on a quarterback keeper from a yard out late in the fourth, but a failed onside kick ended any comeback hopes for Hart, which is more than likely left without an invite to the postseason.
“We have a very, very slight chance of an at-large (bid), but most likely not,” Herrington said. “We had a chance to control our own destiny and we didn’t do it.”
West Ranch head coach Chris Varner said he was proud of his team’s ability to remain focused on Hart despite a week that included a venue change for senior night.
Varner has high hopes for his team in the playoffs.
“When we face a team that’s never gone against us, I like our chances,” Varner said.