Rangers let air out of Carp
By Jesse Phelps
In the first league game of the
year, two ranked teams had battled three quarters to a 7-7 tie.
A large partisan crowd tensed as home-standing Nordhoff lined
up to go for it on fourth down and two at the Carpinteria 31-yard
Quarterback Ryan Whitcomb took the snap from center and pitched
right to Paul Chesser, coming around from his split end spot
with a head of steam. As the defense reacted to the run, Chesser
looked downfield to where tight end Hayden Herbruck was loping
- all by himself - toward the end zone.
Chesser, who started the Rangers' first game of the year at quarterback,
proceeded to loft a perfect spiral into the waiting hands of
the big tight end, who took it in stride into the end zone for
the go-ahead score.
But Herbruck wasn't finished. After the Nordhoff defense forced
a three-and-out behind aggressive tackling from the Catlett brothers,
Josh and Casey, the Rangers got the ball back with a chance to
seal the deal. On third and two just outside midfield, Whitcomb
found Herbruck for a 33-yard strike that put the Rangers within
field goal range of junior place-kicker Trevor Wright.
Wright was nails and after one last, costly defensive stand,
the Rangers had their 17-7 victory.
The stand was costly because in a devastating twist of fate and
flesh, Ranger defensive back and receiver Max Thomas (one spectacular
reception for 12 yards, six tackles) went down in apparent great
pain and had to be taken from the field in an ambulance after
what looked to be a severe leg injury with less than a minute
Thus the sweetness of the ensuing Spencer Hill interception that
sealed a big league-opening win was somewhat muted. But without
some inventive play calling and one nice pass from a slot receiver
to a tight end, even the victory night not have happened.
It was the play Nordhoff (3-1, 1-0) needed on a night when its
usually explosive running game was effectively shut down. One
week after rushing for over 450 yards, the Rangers managed just
135 yards on the ground against the Warriors.
But a team that had passed a grand total of 24 times in its first
three games combined went to the air early and often vs. the
Warriors (1-3, 0-1), completing 15 of 24 passes for 176 yards.
Explaining Nordhoff's sudden preference for the air attack, offensive
coordinator Scott Titus said, "We take what they give us."
Part of the reason for the pass attack may also have been another
early deficit. As in its last game against Calabasas, Nordhoff
had to play catch-up early on after yielding a big play.
Just four and a half minutes into the game, Carpinteria quarterback
Billy Toner faked a pitch and found a gap, bursting through it
and down the sideline for a 90-yard score.
But then both defenses kicked into high gear and nobody scored
again until the second quarter, when junior running back Will
Strong, who also had nine tackles on the night, powered in from
a yard out for his fifth touchdown of the season. Wright's PAT
tied the game, which again became a defensive struggle until
Chesser and Herbruck connected on their big play.
An elated Chesser later grinned on the sideline and discussed
the night's big moment. "We practice that play every day
of my life," he said, "but we never ran it in a game
Herbruck concurred, saying, "Usually it's for a two-point
conversion or short yardage. It works pretty good because they
think I'm blocking."
Still, as big a play as it was, it would have been unimportant
without a stifling effort from the defense, something head coach
Cliff Farrar focused on afterward. "In the second half they
played great, really rose to the occasion," he said. "I
don't believe (Carpinteria) even crossed the 50-yard line."
The win moved the Rangers up one more spot in the CIF Southern
Section rankings, to No. 4 in Division XI. Next week, they'll
travel north to Santa Barbara City College to take on unranked
Bishop Diego in their second league matchup of the season.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
SLEW OF RANGERS TOOK DOWN a Warrior quarterback last Friday when
Nordhoff outplayed Carpinteria, 17-7. The win boosted the Rangers
to the fourth seed in the CIF-SS Division XI polls.