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Warriors win gridiron season opener

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

For the first time since 2014, Fallbrook High School’s football team won the Warriors’ season opener.

The Warriors traveled to Vista for the 2023 season opener on Aug. 18 and returned home with a 33-13 victory. Fallbrook scored the game’s first 20 points and held a 20-6 halftime lead.

“We played fairly well,” said Fallbrook head coach Ross Johnson. “Plenty of week one things to improve upon.”

The Warriors scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions. “We started fast,” Johnson said.

Vista did not start strongly, and on the Panthers’ opening series Fallbrook senior George Aguilar intercepted a pass. Fallbrook drove 54 yards to the end zone with a 31-yard touchdown pass from junior Evan Thomas to senior Wilson Christopherson ending the possession.

A Vista punt traveled to the Fallbrook 24, but the Warriors gained the 76 yards for their next score. The final 46 yards were on a run by senior Chris Bausch, and the extra point attempt was successful to make the score 13-0.

Bausch, who carried the ball 17 times and gained a total of 128 yards, also scored the first touchdown of the second period. His 11-yard run capped an 89-yard drive which also included Bausch’s 26-yard run and a 28-yard pass from Thomas to senior Kyle Collings.

Although the Panthers scored the final touchdown of the first half, Fallbrook took a 27-6 lead on the first possession of the second half. Christopherson returned the second-half kickoff 44 yards to the Fallbrook 49. The first play of the possession was a 44-yard pass from Thomas to Bausch. Two plays later, Thomas executed a quarterback sneak which gained the final yard needed for the touchdown.

The Panthers scored on their next possession but could not reduce their deficit further. “We scored on the next drive,” Johnson said.

That drive covered 80 yards, ended with a 45-yard pass from Thomas to Collings, and included a 24-yard pass from Thomas to sophomore Isac Hawkins.

Not scoring in the fourth quarter could be due to futility but can also be due to the winning team focusing on ball control and running down the clock. “Offensively we definitely ate up some clock, but we also hurt ourselves with a couple of negative plays,” Johnson said.

Although the Warriors were forced to punt on their first possession of the fourth quarter, six minutes of the clock elapsed. “We started running the ball,” Johnson said.

With less than a minute remaining Fallbrook stopped a fourth-down Vista play. The Warriors then ran out the clock.

In addition to the interception, Fallbrook also recovered two fumbles with sophomore Waylon Puikunas and senior Cayden Smith grabbing those turnovers. Collings and senior Raymond Chavarria each had a sack. The Panthers were held to 189 total yards of offense with 24 rushing plays totaling 93 yards and 19 passes resulting in seven completions for 96 yards.

Fallbrook’s 36 rushing plays gained 204 yards. Thomas completed 10 of his 11 passes for 241 yards. Collings had three catches for 71 yards and Aguilar caught two passes which gained a cumulative 62 yards.

Kickoffs were the highlight of the Warriors’ special teams units, but Fallbrook missed two of the five point after touchdown kick attempts and the Warriors also fumbled a snap on a punt. “We have to improve these overall,” Johnson said.

Fallbrook’s 2022 season opener was a 14-7 loss at University City. The 2014 Warriors opened their season with a 48-14 win over University City. Fallbrook lost season openers to Westview in 2015, 2016, and 2017, to Del Norte in 2018 and 2019, to Valley Center in the 2020-21 season which consisted of league games only, and to University City in fall 2021.

The Warriors’ last win against a CIF Southern Section team was in 2005 when Fallbrook defeated Elsinore High School, and the Warriors have not won a game in Riverside County since a 2001 victory over Temecula Valley. Tomorrow’s game at Linfield Christian in Temecula will be Fallbrook’s first game against a CIF Southern Section team since the Warriors traveled to Arlington High School in Riverside for a 2012 contest.


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