By Matt Lechuga
For The Signal
Coming off of a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division 7 championship game last season, the Golden Valley Grizzlies had high expectations coming into the new year and an early defensive test trying to contain super sophomore quarterback Brady Smigiel of Newbury Park.
The Grizzlies kept pace with the high-powered Newbury Park offense for a while, but Smigiel was too much in the end, tossing seven touchdown passes and handing Golden Valley a 59-49 loss in the season opener at Newbury Park High School.
“We blitzed him, stopped him on fourth down one time and got a great interception, but face it, the kid’s a solid quarterback who understands his reads and has a strong arm,” said Golden Valley head coach Dan Kelley. “But you want to see that stuff because now we have it on film and we have to get better. We have to work on some things, but I think our defense is a lot better than what showed tonight.”
It didn’t take long for the highly touted Newbury Park offense to strike, needing just two plays to find the end zone. The Grizzlies were much more methodical, rushing Isaiah Orozco six straight times before he found the end zone from 4 yards out, tying the game at 7-7.
The Panthers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Golden Valley immediately capitalized when junior quarterback Brandon Contreras hit Sean Gomez on a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Grizzlies’ lead was short-lived, however, as Cody Wirz took the following kickoff 99 yards for the score to tie the game again at 14 apiece.
Newbury Park extended its lead to 28-14 at the end of the first quarter thanks to touchdown passes of 32 and 27 yards from Smigiel to Shane Rosenthal and Jaden Mack, respectively.
The teams traded scores on their next three possessions, a 66-yard pass from Contreras to Jackson Anderson, a 61-yard pass from Smigiel to Beau Smigiel with a missed PAT, and a 3-yard rush from Julian Rios to make the score 34-28 Panthers going into the half.
“I think we were very prepared, more than we thought we were, and we had some confidence going into tonight,” said Orozco. “Tonight’s a stepping stone. We’re going to learn from it and get better.”
The Grizzlies came out after the half and took a 42-34 lead thanks to a 1-yard dive from Donnavan Anson and a 43-yard score on an end around from Kam’ron Pierre.
That’s when the Panthers’ offense turned it on, however, with Smigiel throwing four straight touchdown passes, three to his brother Beau and one to Rosenthal to give Newbury Park a 59-42 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Grizzlies quarterback John Mia came in and threw a 31-yard touchdown to make the final score 59-49.
Golden Valley will look to get its first win of the season next week when they host Antelope Valley on Friday.