Pop Warner Football’s Avocado Division junior midget championship went to Ramona’s Guard Dawgs after Ramona took a 26-0 victory over Fallbrook’s Warriors in the division championship game October 10 at Fallbrook High School.
“They had two great players, and we really concentrated on stopping them,” said Ramona coach Jason McGhee. “Worked out great for us.”
The two teams had played to a 22-22 tie September 5 at Ramona’s Wilson Stadium to open league play.
Fallbrook’s standouts that game were quarterback/safety J.D. Pickell and running back/linebacker Aaron Brassard, who thus became the two players Ramona sought to contain in the rematch.
“They did a good job of that,” said Fallbrook coach Mark Welsh.
Welsh identified two Ramona players Fallbrook needed to stop to win the rematch. “We contained #9 [Keyanis Crichlow]; we didn’t do a good job of containing #55
,” he said.
After the two teams tied to open the league season, both teams won the remainder of their scheduled games.
The Palomar Conference had non-league games scheduled for October 10, but a division champion needed to be determined for playoff seeding purposes.
Fallbrook Pop Warner and Fallbrook’s American Youth Football league alternate rental of the Fallbrook High School synthetic turf field on Saturdays.
The game was initially scheduled for El Camino High School, which would have required Oceanside’s team to give up its home field that day.
Since American Youth Football concluded its games by 6 p.m., AYF allowed Fallbrook Pop Warner to use the Fallbrook field for an evening game provided that the Pop Warner personnel handled cleanup responsibilities, so the game was moved to Fallbrook.
Ramona scored one touchdown in each quarter. In the first quarter Arturio Ozorio ran 45 yards from scrimmage to put Ramona on the scoreboard, although the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
In the second quarter Fallbrook threatened to tie the game, if not go ahead on the extra point conversion, before being stopped on downs at the Ramona 7.
“That’s what really changed the whole game,” McGhee said. “Our defense made a great stand.”
Ramona received the ball with 23 seconds left in the half. “We ran a simple counter play,” McGhee said.
Gansch carried the ball on that counter play, and with the help of blocks from Jason Summers and Ben Hine the play concluded in a 93-yard touchdown as time ran out.
The final play of the half was a successful two-point conversion to give the Guard Dawgs a 14-0 lead.
McGhee knew from experience that a two-touchdown lead over Fallbrook wasn’t safe. “I wasn’t comfortable at all,” he said.
In the September 5 game Ramona led 8-0 before the Warriors took a 14-8 lead. The Guard Dawgs came back for a 22-14 lead before Fallbrook’s final touchdown and two-point conversion created the tie.
Fallbrook’s ability to contain Crichlow on counter plays had forced Ramona to run counters to Gansch on the opposite side.
Crichlow scored his only October 10 touchdown in the third quarter on a 45-yard pass reception from quarterback Jordan Narramore. “Hit him on a straight pass,” McGhee said.
In the fourth quarter Gansch scored another touchdown from a counter play which began 35 yards from the Fallbrook end zone.
“It was a big difference,” McGhee said when comparing the rematch to the tie game. “We were a lot more consistent.”
Ramona had 32 missed tackles in the first game against Fallbrook. “We really concentrated on our tackles,” McGhee said.
“Overall it was a very physical game,” Welsh said. “I felt we stood up to that, but we just made too many mental mistakes.”
One of Ramona’s scoring drives would have ended on a punt had a Fallbrook player not run into punter Cesar Marinez, giving the Guard Dawgs an automatic first down as well as an additional 15 yards to continue the possession.
Another Ramona scoring drive followed a Fallbrook punt which had followed a fake punt resulting in what would have been a Warrior first down had a Fallbrook penalty not nullified that play.
“Too many penalties and turnovers was the difference in the game,” Welsh said.
When McGhee cited Marinez’s contributions, he didn’t mention the penalty but focused on the poor field position the punter gave Fallbrook.
“He was constantly kicking 40-plus,” McGhee said. “We just constantly kept them back.”
McGhee added that Fallbrook’s poor field position often translated to good field position for the Guard Dawgs on the subsequent possession.
The win, along with coin tosses to determine home teams for playoff games with equal division seeds, ensures that Ramona will have home field advantage throughout the Palomar Conference playoffs.
The Guard Dawgs will host Murrieta on October 17.
Fallbrook’s first-round playoff game will take place October 17 at Valley Center. “I’m just looking forward to getting back to practice and playing Valley Center this week,” Welsh said.