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Warriors give Ramona first league grid loss since 2019

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Prior to the Sept. 16 game at Fallbrook High School, the Ramona High School football team had not lost a Valley League match since 2019. The Bulldogs’ two-year undefeated streak will not reach three years, as Fallbrook’s 24-7 victory in the league opener for both teams ended the string of 10 consecutive league wins for Ramona.

“It was just a good, fun win. Ramona’s been a standard in our league the last couple of years,” said Fallbrook head coach Ross Johnson.

“We knew they were a good football team,” said Ramona head coach Damon Baldwin. “They were better than us tonight in every facet.”

“Really proud of the boys,” Johnson said. “Exciting night. We’re very pleased with the effort tonight.”

For the Fallbrook coaching staff and players, the Bulldogs’ status as defending two-time league champions was an inspiration rather than an intimidation. “We don’t want to put our Valley League destiny in anybody else’s hands,” Johnson said.

“All the credit goes to Fallbrook. They’re a much improved team. They wanted the win more than we did,” Baldwin said.

After Fallbrook’s opening kickoff was returned to the Ramona 42, the Warrior defense allowed five yards before the Bulldogs were forced to punt and Fallbrook obtained possession on the Warriors’ 22-yard-line. Fallbrook’s first offensive play was a pass which was caught by Ramona cornerback Jamil Kassab just over 40 yards away from the end zone.

Not only did Kassab intercept the pass, but he returned the ball for a touchdown. Kyle Patenaude kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Ramona lead 2:17 into the game.

That was a negative for Fallbrook, but it also showed that the Warriors could overcome adversity. “Didn’t let that affect them at all,” Johnson said.

The interception return would be Ramona’s only score. Although Fallbrook has allowed three touchdowns on turnovers or kick returns, the Warriors’ defense has allowed two touchdowns in the team’s first five games including one by the second string in the fourth quarter against Santana, so the only touchdown allowed by Fallbrook’s starting defense was in the second quarter against University City.

“That unit for us has been absolutely lights out,” Johnson said. “They’re an impressive group.”

Ramona’s kickoff return defense stopped Luke O’Brien at the Fallbrook 18. The Warriors then advanced to the Ramona 26 before being stopped on fourth down. The first quarter ended with the Bulldogs holding a 7-0 lead and Fallbrook having third down at midfield five yards short of the first down marker.

Although the first play of the second quarter was for no gain, the Warriors converted on fourth down. Penalties against both teams eventually created fourth down with the Warriors needing 20 yards for a first down, but that yardage was obtained on a pass play.

With the Warriors needing one yard for a first down on the next fourth down situation, Chris Bausch ran for four yards to bring the ball two yards away from the end zone. Alan Leon then scored a rushing touchdown with 7:37 remaining in the half and Josh Gomez kicked the extra point to tie the score at 7-7.

Leon notes that Fallbrook’s offensive line was responsible for that touchdown as well as the other two the Warriors scored. “They pushed hard until the last quarter. They kept moving the D-line back,” he said.

“We did a good job of controlling the ball and our defense rested a lot,” Johnson said. “We did a good job of getting back to what we do best.”

Three plays after the kickoff, a Ramona fumble was recovered by Fallbrook safety Jonah Saliba 29 yards away from the end zone the Bulldogs were defending. Bausch ran 20 yards for a first down, and three plays later he ran eight yards into the end zone for a score with 4:24 left in the half. Gomez kicked the extra point for a 14-7 Fallbrook lead and then sent the kickoff past the back of the end zone.

Ramona gained one yard on the next two offensive plays. A quartet of Warriors then collaborated for a 10-yard sack.

The line of scrimmage was the Ramona 11 prior to the punt and the Ramona 23 after the punt which was blocked by Anthony Thomas. “I think that was the turning point of the game to be honest. It was pretty close momentum wise up to that point,” Thomas said.

The Bulldogs’ defense was tough enough to hold Fallbrook to a field goal on the drive which began with 3:04 remaining in the half. A run on third down gained the necessary yardage to allow the Warriors four additional downs. Consecutive tackles by Ramona linebacker Jacob Raher limited Fallbrook to four yards on those two plays, and the Bulldogs also stopped the run on third down. Gomez kicked a 24-yard field goal on the final play of the first half which ended with Fallbrook having a 17-7 advantage.

Holding the Warriors to three points might have given Ramona the momentum advantage entering the second half, but that was contingent upon the Bulldogs’ offense overcoming Fallbrook’s defense. “We couldn’t get anything going. They covered our guys. We couldn’t get open,” Baldwin said.

Ramona’s defense also held Fallbrook following the return of the second-half kickoff. Fallbrook gained seven yards on three plays before Gomez executed a 43-yard punt. Ramona then gained seven yards on three plays before punting.

O’Brien called for a fair catch at the Fallbrook 37. The Warriors gained nine yards on the next three plays. Bausch advanced the ball to midfield for the first down. The drive ended with Thomas McSheehy running 10 yards into the end zone 3:40 before the conclusion of the third quarter. Gomez kicked the extra point for a 24-7 score.

A Ramona penalty nullified a long kickoff return. The Bulldogs gained two first downs before an Angel Angulo sack on second down left the Bulldogs 16 yards shy of the first down marker. On the final play of the third quarter, Ramona gained 13 yards on a pass play. The Bulldogs were able to make the first down on the first play of the fourth quarter and then converted a play on third down to move the markers. A pass interference call against Fallbrook gave the Bulldogs first down 14 yards away from the end zone.

An illegal procedure call moved the ball back five yards. An incomplete pass was followed by a three-yard carry. A Ramona holding penalty on what otherwise would have been a complete pass gave Ramona 27 yards to go for a first down and 31 yards to go for a touchdown. An incomplete pass created fourth down. A pass completion gained yardage, but O’Brien tackled Ryan Dutra five yards away from the first down marker and the Warriors gained possession with 7:39 left.

Fallbrook obtained one first down before being forced to punt. Gomez’s 39-yard punt gave the Bulldogs the ball at their own 35. A Ramona first down was augmented by a roughing the passer call against Fallbrook, giving the Bulldogs possession at the Fallbrook 38. Two incomplete passes created third down.

The ball was moved to the other side of midfield when Angulo led a 14-yard sack. The pass on fourth down was complete to Azlan Enriquez, but Saliba tackled Enriquez a yard shy of the necessary distance for the first down. With 1:37 remaining on the clock the Warriors were able to allow time to expire.

“It was a great performance by the defense,” Leon said. “It was a great team win.”

“I just played the game plan and it worked out,” Angulo said.

“I did my assignment,” Angulo said. “I executed what I had to.”

“I think we’re one of the best defenses in San Diego County. I think we proved that today,” Thomas said.

The win gave Fallbrook a 4-1 overall season record along with a 1-0 Valley League mark. Valley Center and Rancho Buena Vista also won Sept. 16, giving those teams a share of the league standings lead. Ramona will follow a bye tomorrow with a Sept. 30 home game against Rancho Buena Vista, which has a 5-0 overall record. Fallbrook has a non-league home game tomorrow against Brawley, a Sept. 30 bye, and an Oct. 7 game at Valley Center.


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