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Warrior gridders overcome early penalties to defeat Lions

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Fallbrook High School's football team had 369 yards of total offense in the Warriors' 31-17 win Aug. 25 at Linfield Christian, but some of those yards were necessary to overcome penalties against the Warriors.

"There were a lot of flags early in the game going in both directions," said Fallbrook head coach Ross Johnson.

That included four false start penalties against Fallbrook. "We did a really good job of overcoming it," Johnson said. "That was good to see."

Linfield took advantage of broken Fallbrook defensive coverage to score two touchdowns, but the Lions did not score two unanswered touchdowns. "We did a good job of not letting our mistakes snowball," Johnson said.

That probably couldn't be said for Linfield. "We forced turnovers on the first three drives," Johnson said.

On the second play of the game, sophomore Preston McCarthy intercepted a pass on the Linfield 31 and returned it 12 yards to the 19. Five plays later, junior quarterback Evan Thomas made a one-yard run into the end zone. The conversion kick by senior Zach Dickey made the score 7-0.

Linfield's possession after the kickoff ended when sophomore Waylon Puikunas forced a fumble which was recovered by sophomore Grant Hall on the Linfield 47. A delay of game penalty and a false start penalty gave the Warriors the ball at their own 43 and 20 yards from the first-down marker. A five yard gain was followed by a personal foul penalty against Fallbrook, creating second down at the Fallbrook 33 with 30 yards needed for a first down.

"Not ideal," Johnson said of three penalties in four plays.

It was also not ideal that Thomas was forced to scramble on the play after the third penalty, but he gained 44 yards. The 10th non-penalty play of the drive was a three-yard touchdown run by senior Chris Bausch, and Dickey kicked the extra point.

The score remained 14-0 for the remainder of the first quarter. In the final minute of the period, senior Cayden Smith stopped a Linfield drive by recovering a fumble on the Fallbrook 25 although the Warriors were forced to punt early in the second quarter.

The ensuing Linfield possession made the score 14-7. "We had a coverage breakdown on third and nine. We let a receiver get behind us," Johnson said.

With two seconds remaining in the first half, Dickey kicked a 28-yard field goal. That was his first career varsity field goal. The placekicking special teams unit also allowed Dickey to be successful on all four of his point-after attempts Aug. 25.

In Fallbrook's 33-13 victory on Aug. 18 at Vista, the Warriors only made three of five conversion attempts. "We did a much better job between snap, hold, kick, and blocking. It was much cleaner this week," Johnson said.

All four of Maloney's kickoffs were touchbacks. "The kicker put everything in the end zone," Johnson said.

The touchback on the kickoff to begin the second half was followed by an 80-yard Fallbrook scoring drive. Carries by Bausch accounted for 60 of those 80 yards including gains of 29, 16, and 10 yards and a five-yard touchdown run. Dickey kicked the extra point for a 24-7 score.

Linfield followed the ensuing kickoff by advancing to the Fallbrook 27 before the Warriors' defense stopped the Lions on fourth down. The Warriors were forced to punt on their possession, and the Lions took possession at their own 45.

Late in the third quarter Linfield scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass. "It was kind of the same mistake, unfortunately. We let somebody get behind us in the secondary," Johnson said.

Fallbrook was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, and the Lions began that drive on their own 42. The Warrior defense stopped Linfield in the red zone, but they booted a 27-yard field goal to narrow the Lions' deficit to 24-17 with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Fallbrook didn't mind the ensuing touchback too much, as the longer distance allowed the Warriors to consume clock time. After gaining 50 yards, Fallbrook was stopped on fourth down.

The Lions took possession on their own 30. "Defense made them go backward basically," Johnson said.

On the next play, senior Noah Anzures and Smith sacked the Lion quarterback for a four-yard loss. The sack was the second of the game; senior Raymond Chavarria previously had a solo sack. A holding penalty moved the Lions back another 10 yards. Two incomplete passes resulted in a fourth down. Linfield's punting team was called for an illegal formation penalty to bring the ball to the Linfield 11.

"We got a pretty good rush on the punter," Johnson said. "He decided not to punt."

The fourth-down pass was incomplete. On the next play, Bausch ran for an 11-yard touchdown. Dickey kicked the extra point.

Bausch carried the ball 31 times including the three touchdown runs and gained 199 yards, which is a career high. He also caught three passes for 25 yards. Fallbrook gained 278 rushing yards during the game. Thomas completed seven of his 14 passing attempts, and the completions totaled 91 yards gained from scrimmage.

Approximately four minutes remained when Fallbrook kicked off. The Lions advanced the ball to the 50 before the Warrior defense caused fourth down 19 yards short of the first-down target. Linfield's punt was downed at the Fallbrook 1.

The Lions thus could have won with a safety and a touchdown, but Fallbrook avoided the negative yardage. "We were able to run out the clock from that point," Johnson said.

Although the only three Linfield turnovers were on the Lions' first three possessions of the game, Fallbrook now has six takeaways for the season and the Warriors did not turn over the ball in either game. "The turnover thing has been really big for us," Johnson said.

Linfield gained 136 yards through the air and 75 on the ground.

"It was a talented Linfield team that we played and definitely a hard-fought game," Johnson said.

The Warriors' first home game of 2023 will take place tomorrow Sept. 1, against Great Oak.


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