Rangers win mud bowl battle
By Jesse Phelps
The Catlett brothers weren't
going to let Nordhoff lose another heartbreaker to Santa Paula.
Not for a third year in a row and not with the league title potentially
in the balance.
On a stormy night with the rain pouring down, on a field with
lots of mud and very little traction, Josh Catlett took over
the offensive load for an injured Will Strong, powering through
the muck for 154 yards and two first half touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was little brother Casey
Catlett doing the most damage for the Rangers, recording 15 tackles
and an interception to help seal the Rangers' 14-13 victory over
a rival that had broken the hearts of Nordhoff faithful two straight
With the win, Nordhoff (7-1, 5-0) solidified its No. 2 position
in the CIF Southern Section Division IX rankings, setting up
a showdown with top-ranked league rival Oaks Christian at home
The Rangers trailed by seven after one quarter, thanks to a 70-yard
fumble return from Santa Paula's Spencer Fox. That's when the
elder Catlett got things going.
His first touchdown came on a play in which he broke several
tackles before springing loose for a 56-yard scoring scamper.
"I just cut it back and I was just wide open. No back cuts
or anything, I was just gone," said Catlett.
The muddy conditions made their presence known on the ensuing
play, however, when the Rangers failed to even the score because
the point after sailed wide.
However, the defense held Santa Paula and Andy Doyle got the
Rangers into great field position for its next drive with a 19-yard
punt return to the the Cardinal 39. Catlett carried most of the
offensive load on the drive, finishing it off with his second
score, a 2-yard run. Now leading 12-7, the Rangers went for two
and got it on a misdirection play to Paul Chesser.
Those two points would end up providing the winning margin, as
Nordhoff was unable to get anything going offensively in the
second half. Meanwhile, the Cardinals got back into the game
behind the quickness of running back Tony Manzano, who seemed
to get the call on every play of the third quarter for the Santa
On its first posession of the half, Santa Paula drove from the
Nordhoff 45. Aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty against the
Rangers and a 23-yard burst by Manzano, to the Nordhoff 1, it
took only three plays for the Cardinals to score.
After Manzano punched it in, Santa Paula lined up for the game-tying
PAT. But again the muddy conditions forced a bad kick and this
time, Nordhoff escaped still leading by a point.
That was all the margin the Rangers would need. In the middle
of the fourth quarter, just when it looked like Santa Paula was
driving for the go-ahead score, it was little brother's turn
to make a big play. Having started at its own 21, the Santa Paula
offense was suddenly in high gear. Manzano broke off consecutive
runs of 19, 5 and 15 yards to set up a first-and-10 at the Nordhoff
41. After another Manzano run was stuffed ner the line of scrimmage,
Santa Paula coaches elected to go to the air. Big mistake.
Doyle tipped the pass, which found its way into the waiting hands
of Casey Catlett, and the Cardinal threat was repelled.
Josh Catlett said he had fun playing defense with his brother.
"(Casey) fills those holes," he said. "He helped
me a couple of times, filling them for me and stopping them for
Nordhoff coach Cliff Farrar agreed, saying, "For a sophomore
he gets great reads. He reminds me of Russel. My son Russel got
great reads like that."
Nordhoff killed four minutes on its next possession and, with
the game on the line and the time short, the Cardinals were forced
to pass when they got the ball back.
Good-looking passes were few and far between on this rainy night
and the drive stalled before it began. The game ended as Nordhoff
quarterback Ryan Whitcomb took a knee to run out the clock.
Farrar paid his respects to both Catlett brothers after the game.
"(Casey) does a great job
as a sophomore linebacker for us. Josh, I call him Big Cat, he
just ran well tonight. He carried the load."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
STADIUM WAS FULL OF RAIN and Ranger pride last Friday night as
Nordhoff emerged from the mud with a one-point victory over Santa
Paula. Casey Catlett (above left) and teammates Evan Shanbrom
and Marty Vogel trooped off the field as the buzzer rang, signaling
the Rangers' 14-13 win. The battle for the No. 1 position in
both league and CIF Diviosn XI will be fought at NHS Friday night
against Oaks Christian.