Rangers falter in fourth quarter
for 32-28 loss
by Jesse Phelps
The Ranger football squad returned over Sulfur Mountain Friday
night with the acrid smell of defeat fresh in their nostrils
after a tough fourth quarter saw the previously winless Cardinals
reel off 26 consecutive points to claim a 32-28 victory.
This year's installment in the county rivalry lacked the championship
implications of the last two seasons, both teams having switched
to Tri-Valley League competition after so many years of ruling
the roost in the disbanded Frontier League. Santa Paula (1-7,
1-3) was reintegrating several players after long absences and
Nordhoff was without some key components due to injury, but the
result was another exciting game between the two schools.
Sophomore running back Will Strong turned in yet another stellar
performance for the Rangers (3 5, 2-3). He paced the Nordhoff
rushing attack with 130 yards on 22 carries including a 39-yard
touchdown run in the second quarter.
Jairus Rothermel also found the end zone in the first half on
a 7-yard reception from Ryan Whitcomb. Josh Catlett scored twice
on the evening, once on special teams.
Head coach Cliff Farrar was particularly impressed by the play
of Catlett. "We didn't have good field position," he
recounted at practice Monday. "And then Josh Catlett blocked
the punt and returned it for a touchdown." Things were looking
good for Nordhoff, up 21-6.
After Catlett scored again out of the backfield in the third,
Nordhoff seemed to be in complete control.
"We played three quarters pretty well," Farrar said.
But the Cardinals weren't giving up.
Trailing 28-6, Santa Paula made use of a series of onside kicks
and capitalized on Nordhoff miscues - Nordhoff turned the ball
over four times in the fourth quarter - to come back in dramatic
fashion for the win.
"The fourth quarter, they came alive and we didn't make
anything happen," Farrar lamented. "We didn't make
a big play anywhere in the fourth quarter."
Nordhoff had a golden opportunity to score after a Santa Paula
onside kick yielded an abbreviated field. But instead of being
able to, as Farrar put it, "take the ball in, score and
put the game away," the Rangers fumbled, allowing Santa
Paula its own opportunity to operate on a short field.
The Cardinals would capitalize and use the momentum it gained
to keep rolling. Two onside kicks and three touchdowns later,
the Rangers found themselves down four as Santa Paula's Simon
Mata caught his ninth pass of the night in the back of the end
zone with a scant 1:13 left on the clock
For a moment, it looked as if the Rangers might have one last
comeback of their own in store as Andy Bowman, in relief of Whitcomb,
hit sophomore wide-out Andy Doyle on a series of quick passes
to press into Cardinal territory.
The threat was ended, however, when Santa Paula's Matt Easley
intercepted a desperation heave in the waning seconds to seal
the Rangers' fate.
Santa Paula seniors Jason Prado and Mark Moreno had huge games.
Prado recovered three fumbles on the night and Moreno scored
two touchdowns in the final period to help bring the Cardinals
Nordhoff suffered another blow to its kicking game, at least
temporarily. Clark Bigler, who came up big with a 75-yard touchdown
return to set up Strong's touchdown run in the second quarter,
suffered what Farrar described as a "light concussion"
and was forced to sit out most of the night.
The junior practiced with the team Monday and Farrar said he
will play Friday night in Nordhoff's final home game of the season.
Greg Cresto kicked flawlessly in relief of sidelined field-goal
specialist Jaymes Quirino, nailing all four extra points he tried.
"We did a lot of things well again and just didn't finish
things up again," Farrar said. "The last three games
now, we just haven't finished things up. We're just trying to
take care of ourselves, get healthy, and play four quarters of
football. We haven't done that yet this year."
Also playing against Santa Paula was Nordhoff's junior varsity
squad, which missed two key field goals and, lost, 14-12.
The freshmen team was the only squad to come out on top, besting
the freshman Cardinals, 34-0, to improve to a 6-1 record.
Nordhoff plays at home Friday versus Oaks Christian, junior varsity
at 4:30 p.m. and varsity at 7:30 p.m. The freshman play tomorrow
at Oaks Christian School at 4 p.m.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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freshman team was the only Nordhoff
squad to best the Santa Paula Cardinals last week. Nordhoff's
freshmen improved to a 6-1 record, by far the best of all three