Upland Scots football (8-4) stunned the previously unbeaten West Ranch Wildcats (11-1) in an overtime thriller on Friday at Valencia High School.
Scots cornerback Trestin Castro brought down an interception in overtime to seal it.
Upland was led by workhorse running back Rickey Allen, who ran in two scores. Scots quarterback Noah Sandoval also had two touchdowns, including the game-winning rushing score in overtime.
Wildcats linebacker Brady Van Bennekum was exceptional on all three phases. Van Bennekum would rack up an interception, a plethora of tackles and the game-tying touchdown reception to force overtime.
Upland struggled to get its offense going throughout the first half. Sandoval overthrew targets early in the game and would take some time before finding a groove.
Van Bennekum would end the Scots’ opening drive with an interception.
Allen, the focal of the Upland offense all year, was constantly met at the line of scrimmage throughout the first half.
West Ranch got the scoring started with one of their biggest threats, the deep ball.
Wildcats’ quarterback Ryan Staub hit receiver Chaz Hilst for a 75-yard score in their first play of the second followed by a 60-yarder to Maverick Diaz to go up 14-0 in the second quarter.
Hilst would finish the night with six catches for 118 yards.
The scores weren’t coming easy for the Wildcat quarterback, who was constantly under duress. Staub was picked off twice and sacked three times in the game, twice by Upland defensive tackle Kiti Maileoi.
“We had a bunch of guys filling in,” said Cats’ head coach Chris Varner. “We had some hurt kids and we had some kids fill in and they did a great job. We had opportunities, it just didn’t go our way.”
The Scots would finally find the end zone on their opening drive of the second half. The team moved the ball well and wound up on the West Ranch 1-yard line thanks to a Cats’ penalty.
Allen would take in the Scots’ first score to get on the board in the third quarter.
Sandoval led the next drive with some great passes to Ian Sanchez and receiver Dominic Cox would tie the game with a 35-yard touchdown reception.
The Scot pass rush turned up the heat in the second half for the short time they were on the field. The Upland offense was doing its part with long drives to keep West Ranch off the field.
Staub felt the pressure and had a handful of throws just miss his targets. Scots’ safety Michael Pugh would capitalize and pick off Staub in the fourth quarter.
Upland quickly utilized the pick and another Allen rushing score to take the lead.
The Scots managed to keep West Ranch at bay while scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half. They looked like a completely different team out of the halftime break and stormed through the second half.
Staub had about three minutes left in regulation and a ton of field to go. The game-tying drive would start off poor with a Hilst drop, but then, the team started cooking.
“We just said, ‘Hey, there’s time and we can score quickly,'” said Varner. “They did a good job of containing us for most part, but we came up big when we had to and just kind of ran out of steam a little bit in the end.”
Hilst and fellow receiver William Seidel picked up one big gain after another all the way up to the 3-yard line. The Cats couldn’t punch it in on the ground but a 2-yard pass to Van Bennekum set up the game tying PAT.
Upland got the ball first to start overtime and kept doing what they know best, pounding the rock. Big runs by Allen and running back Journee Tonga helped the Scots find points and first downs all night.
The team would fight to the 1-yard line before Sandoval punched in the eventual game-winner.
West Ranch went straight for the kill on its first play in overtime. After all, the team was scoring no problem on its deep balls. Staub threw to a streaking Maverick Diaz, but Castro just managed to get in between the two and secured the season-ending pick for the Wildcats.
The interception was Castro’s sixth of the season.
Staub finished 14 of 29 for 290 yards with three TDs and two picks. The picks were just Staub’s fourth and fifth on the year.
Upland will now move on to face the winner of El Modena and Bishop Diego, which will play on Saturday.
West Ranch will now graduate a ton of talent as it completes its best football season in school history. Staub heads to Colorado and offensive lineman Sean Scott will head to SMU, and plenty other Wildcats have put in the work and will likely be playing collegiate football.
“Well they shut down our run completely,” said Varner. “When you become one dimensional, it kind of puts our feet in the fire. We came up big when we needed to at the end to take it to OT. My kids battled and a as a coach, that’s all you can ask, is that they come out and give you 100% and these kids have done that for three years.”
The Wildcats will also return plenty of key players and look for another dominating season in the Foothill League under head coach Chris Varner.