The West Ranch Wildcats (1-0) made a huge statement Friday night in their season opener, beating the St. Francis Golden Knights (0-1), 61-41 at Valencia High School.
West Ranch quarterback Ryan Staub had himself a night, throwing for 303 yards and five touchdowns while adding one touchdown on the ground.
“Wow, what a hot start,” Staub said. “That’s exactly what we wanted to do on offense. That’s got to be good for our confidence going into the rest of year. St. Francis is a great team and a great program, so that’s got to be really good for all of our confidence.”
Three of those touchdowns were thrown to Chaz Hilst, all of them coming in a five-minute span to close the third quarter. They turned what was a one-point deficit into a 21-point advantage heading into the fourth.
“[Hilst has] got a lot left in him, too,” West Ranch head coach Chris Varner said. “Will Seidel did a heck of a job getting us the points early on. And, you know, still, we got tons of improvements, but I feel pretty good right now.”
Seidel had two catches for 116 yards, both of them going for touchdowns. The first came right after St. Francis scored its first touchdown of the game, putting West Ranch back up by two scores midway through the first. The second, a trick play that saw Staub throw a screen to Hilst before tossing it to Seidel deep beyond the secondary, put West Ranch up by 13 to start the second quarter.
West Ranch started the game nearly perfectly. Maverick Diaz returned the opening kickoff to the Saugus 6-yard line before Luke DePerno ran it in on the first play from scrimmage. On St. Francis’ third play, Connor Reyes returned an interception 46 yards to put the Wildcats up 12-0 after less than two minutes.
After that, the game continued to go back and forth, though West Ranch was able to hang on to slim leads throughout the first half.
Varner saw his defensive line being unable to put much pressure on St. Francis quarterback Jack Jacobs, so he made a change to put more pressure in the secondary, rather than on the backfield.
“Their line was tremendous,” Varner said of St. Francis. “We couldn’t get pressure so we just decided to do a couple different things. Wasn’t real pleased overall, but we did some really good things where we needed to, and that was enough to make the difference.”
West Ranch will look to grab its second win in as many weeks when it travels to Buena next Friday for a non-league game.
“Sky’s the limit for this team,” Staub said. “I mean, it’s always baby steps, it’s every week, week by week, we want to win the game. But I mean, the goal is obviously win a league title, first league title in West Ranch history, then we’ll win a CIF title, and then win a state championship. That’s the goal.”