A perfect homecoming
By Jesse Phelps
The defense took over when it
counted in Nordhoff's potentially league-deciding game with Oak
Park last Friday before a large, raucus homecoming crowd. The
Rangers took control of their own destiny with an 18-10 victory,
made possible by a record-breaking interception return from Sean
Baier and some stellar play from wide receiver and defensive
back Andy Doyle.
Leading 12-3 halfway through the second quarter, the Rangers
(6-1, 4-0) were in trouble nonetheless. An interception by Gavin
Ketchum gave the Eagles the ball near midfield, where they drove
reletlessly toward the Nordhoff goal line and looked to be in
position to pull within a field goal before the half.
That's when Doyle, who also recorded six tackles on the day,
picked off a pass near the goal line to take back possession
for the Rangers.
Suddenly playing a game of who-can-turn-it-over-fastest, the
Rangers proceeded to waste the opportunity by fumbling the ball
a few plays later. Now Oak Park had posession inside the Ranger
25 once again.
But the Eagles (6-1, 3-1) also continued to have trouble holding
onto the ball - and this time it cost them big. As in school-record
On second and five at the Nordhoff 7-yard line, with the Eagles
looking to pass, Baier dropped back into coverage and may have
been surprised when the ball came directly to him on the goal
Surprised or not, his reaction was by the books. With a host
of teammates setting up stellar blocking, he rumbled 100 yards
for a touchdown, a school record and an 18-10 Nordoff lead.
"I got caught from behind a couple of times but I got in,"
said an elated Baier.
"What a great, great play," added Nordhoff coach Cliff
The lead would stand up even as, in the second half, the Eagles
mounted a furious charge behind senior wide receiver Brandon
Koller. Though Ketchum has received much of the ink and attention
from the writers and the experts, it was Koller who, to the dismay
of the Nordhoff crowd, kept finding an opening along the eastern
sideline during two impressive second-half drives.
The first resulted in a touchdown. The second, in which Koller
caught four consecutive passes to drive deep into Ranger territory,
ended on an overthrown ball on fourth down with just 25 seconds
to go. In less than a minute, the Eagles had driven nearly 60
yards but couldn't find the capper. Had they scored, a two-point
conversion would have sent the game into overtime.
Ryan Whitcomb had one of his better games as a Ranger, despite
the interception. On the day, he completed 10 of 13 passes for
105 yards and a key touchdown to Doyle, who reached up and caught
the ball on a fade into the near corner of the end zone over
the outstretched arms of a defender.
"I thought, in the first half, Doyle was our MVP,"
That play, the first of the second quarter, put the Rangers up
12-3. It was particularly handy that Whitcomb and Doyle had it
working on a day when the usually-fierce Nordhoff running game
looked to be out of gas.
Aside from the Ranger's first score of the day - a 9-yard power
run from Josh Catlett - they couldn't get a lot working on the
ground. For the first time in what seemed like years, Will Strong
was shut out of the end zone, though he still led all Ranger
runners with 56 yards on 19 carries.
The Rangers need only win out to claim the Tri-Valley League
title, and with upcoming games at home against league rivals
Santa Paula (breakers of Ranger hearts the last two years) and
Oaks Christian (CIF No. 1 in Division IX), they'll have a decent
shot, if not an easy one. Should the Rangers best Santa Paula,
their game against Oaks Christian Nov. 7 would be not only to
take league, but also the whole of Division XI.
But for now, the Rangers can celebrate their biggest win of the
Said Farrar, "Our guys played like it was a championship
game, which it was. Our guys played their hearts out."
Next up for Nordhoff is Santa Paula on Friday night, to be followed
by a potential showdown for the league with Oaks Christian the
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
QUARTERBACK RYAN WHITCOMB runs toward the end zone in last week's
game against Oak Park. Whitcomb will help lead the Rangers tonight
against Tri-Valley League rival Santa Paula (1-5).