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Warriors share league championship, seeded first in D-IV playoffs

Home playoff game Nov. 11

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Fallbrook High School’s football team completed the Warriors’ regular season Oct. 28 with a 20-6 home victory against Rancho Buena Vista, which gave Fallbrook a share of the Valley League championship.

The win gave the Warriors a 4-1 Valley League record along with a 7‑3 overall figure. San Pasqual was also 4-1 in Valley League play, and the Golden Eagles will also enter the playoffs with a 7-3 overall mark.

“It’s a co-championship, and we’re happy to get a league title for the first time in seven years,” said Fallbrook head coach Ross Johnson.

(The 2015 Warriors also shared the league championship and, in Fallbrook’s first Valley League season, the Warriors won the 2014 league title outright.)

San Pasqual defeated Fallbrook by a 14-6 margin Oct. 21 at San Pasqual, and the head-to-head victory made the Golden Eagles the designated league champion for the purpose of a guaranteed home CIF playoff game. Although Fallbrook was not guaranteed a playoff home game, the Oct. 29 CIF playoff selection and seeding meeting gave Fallbrook the top seed in Division IV, so the Warriors will have a Nov. 11 home game along with a Nov. 18 home semifinal match should Fallbrook win in the quarterfinals.

San Pasqual is in Division III for CIF playoff purposes and was seeded sixth. Fallbrook’s league victories included wins over Division II playoff participants Ramona and Valley Center. Rancho Buena Vista was given the eighth seed in the Division III playoffs.

The top seed gives Fallbrook a Nov. 4 bye. The Warriors will play their home quarterfinals match against the winner of the Nov. 4 game between eighth-seeded Hilltop and ninth-seeded Francis Parker.

“It’s nice. It’s great to know that as long as we can take care of business, we can have home field advantage all the way to the finals,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can take care of business and we can get there.”

The Division IV championship match will be played Nov. 25 at Escondido High School.

Oct. 28 was Senior Night for Fallbrook, and the Warriors honored their 24 seniors prior to the game. “To be able to win a league championship on Senior Night, it’s a very special thing,” Johnson said. “I think that it’s a perfect way to honor the seniors.”

Johnson noted that the seniors contributed to the league title. “They put in four hard years in the program,” he said.

This year’s varsity roster has 50 players. “We’ve still got a good junior class behind them, which is fortunate,” Johnson said.

The juniors will take playoff experience with them into the 2023 season while the seniors will close out their high school careers in the playoffs. The win over Rancho Buena Vista also gave the Warriors experience in a close game.

“It was kind of similar to San Pasqual. It was definitely a defensive battle for a lot of the game,” Johnson said.

Johnson credits the Longhorns for limiting Fallbrook’s offense. “Rancho Buena Vista, I think, did as good a job as anybody in scouting us,” he said.

“They were very well prepared for us,” Johnson said. “We had to work very hard to get the yards we got.”

Fallbrook’s defense had six sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. “They brought a lot of pressure all night,” Johnson said. “They kept us in great field position most of the night.”

Johnson also credits Fallbrook’s special teams units. “Special teams was really big for us,” he said.

The first two scores of the game were second-quarter field goals by Fallbrook senior Josh Gomez. The first was a 39-yard field goal and the second was from 30 yards away.

The Longhorns tied the score later in the quarter. “We thought we had them stopped,” Johnson said.

Rancho Buena Vista had fourth down at the Fallbrook 39 six yards from the first-down marker. “They went for it,” Johnson said.

The pass was incomplete, but a pass interference call against Fallbrook gave the Longhorns first down and 15 additional yards. “They scored a touchdown on the very next play,” Johnson said.

The Warriors took a 13-6 halftime lead when sophomore Evan Thomas threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to senior Sean Farish and Gomez kicked the extra point. Three seconds remained on the clock when Fallbrook scored. “A big momentum shift for us,” Johnson said.

In the fourth quarter, Fallbrook’s defense forced the Longhorns to punt. The ball was downed on the Fallbrook 47. “Our defense wasn’t giving up a whole lot of first downs, so we were able to have good field position most of the night,” Johnson said.

Fallbrook’s 53-yard touchdown drive consisted of seven plays. The final one was Thomas scoring on a one-yard quarterback sneak. Chris Bausch, who is a junior, had rushing gains of 28 and 10 yards on the drive. “We had a couple of good runs from Chris Bausch,” Johnson said.

For the night, Bausch gained 119 yards on 20 carries. Gomez’s kick gave Fallbrook a 20-6 lead with 4:51 left.

The Longhorns were forced to punt on their ensuing possession after facing fourth down with 14 yards needed for a first down. “We did have another sack in the series,” Johnson said.

Two of Fallbrook’s six sacks Oct. 28 were by senior Kaleb Collings; senior Thomas McSheehy and junior Luke O’Brien each had one solo sack while also partnering for a combined sack, and senior Angel Angulo sacked the RBV quarterback once. Collings also recovered a fumble which was forced by junior George Aguilar, and junior Will Sherman intercepted a pass.

On the Warriors’ final possession Fallbrook was able to obtain a first down before running out the clock.

“We had stiff competition,” Johnson said. “RBV did a really good job against us.”

The Nov. 4 bye week is the second of the Warriors’ season but the first after a victory; Fallbrook lost a Sept. 23 non-league game to Brawley before winning Oct. 7 at Valley Center. “It’s similar to our regular-season bye week,” Johnson said. “We’re going to look into some areas where we’ve struggled in the past few weeks and try to clean some of that stuff up.”

Once Fallbrook’s specific Nov. 11 opponent is determined, the Warriors will also address that team’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

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