SANTEE – Emotions were flying high last Friday night as the Tigers suffered a heartbreaking end to their 2014 football season. Each team had their share of errors and shining moments, but it was the West Hills Wolf Pack that came out victorious with 41-27 as the final score.
As the game started, the West Hills offense showed that they meant business as their running back broke free and made his way to the end zone four minutes into the game. Once the Tigers gained possession of the ball, they began their drive downfield, but were stopped short and had a turnover on downs.
Despite the West Hills Wolf Pack seeming upper hand, the Tiger defense remained unwavering, pushing back against every West Hills attempt at a drive. At the end of a quick first quarter, Tiger defense remained strong and did not give up any more points to the Wolf Pack.
With West Hills regaining the ball in the second quarter, the Tigers needed a spark to fire up their team. Less than two minutes into the quarter, they received that spark in the form of a spectacular interception by free safety, Carlos Villanueva. The interception brought the Tigers into scoring position at the West Hills 14 yard line. Quarterback Aaron Bonillas handed the ball to Tiger fullback Jon Lee, who ran it in for the Tigerâ€™s first touchdown. With the extra point good, the score was now tied up 7-7.
The Tigers now presented a challenge to the Wolf Pack by following their touchdown with sacking the West Hills quarterback and by causing a false start that pushed the Wolf Pack farther away from the end zone with about six minutes left in the half. West Hills, however, did not take this challenge kindly. A pass interference was called on the Tigers, the Wolf Pack was brought into scoring position and they found an opportunity, which they took with no mercy.
West Hills quickly ran the ball in for another touchdown, taking the lead in the game once again. It was now the Tigerâ€™s turn to accept the Wolf Packâ€™s challenge but on their third down, West Hills defensive lineman Garrett Mead broke through the Tiger offensive line and found Bonillas still with the ball. This brought up the fourth down and a Tiger punt to give West Hills possession.
As time was running out in the first half, the Wolf Packâ€™s offense did not show signs of slowing. It was West Hills quarterback Spencer Moyer with a long pass to his receiver Raphy Carr that brought the Wolf Pack to the Tiger one yard line. The Wolf Pack ran the ball in for another touchdown, bringing the score to 20-7 with only a minute and a half left in the first half of game play.
With the Tigers now in possession of the ball, it was wide receiver Saivon Lewis who broke free with a long run. As a yellow flag flew through the air, Tiger excitement turned to disappointment as Lewisâ€™s run was brought back by a holding penalty on the Tigers. This brought the first half of game play to an end.
The Tigers received the ball, starting the second half. They drove towards the goal line but were quickly stopped by an upsetting West Hills interception that was run back for a 58 yard touchdown only a minute into the second half.
Shaken by this burst of momentum from the Wolf Pack, the Tiger offense struggled to push back and were forced to punt on their fourth down. The Wolf Pack surged ahead yet again, with a Hail Mary pass to receiver Taj Broomfield that resulted in another West Hills touchdown, four minutes into the second half.
Things were looking bleak for the Tigers as they neared receiving a running clock, but it was Saivon Lewis with a strong run to bring up a Tiger first down that began to rally the team. Seeing what was happening, Tiger offensive coach Victor Cruz turned to senior Mark Benedict to take the field as fullback. Bonillas handed the ball off to Benedict who broke through the West Hills defensive line to gain 30 yards and another Tiger first down. In two more identical plays, Benedict found his way into the end zone, breaking the deadlock that the West Hills defense had on the Tigers since the first quarter.
It seemed as though the tables had turned on the Wolf Pack. The Tigers held strong against the West Hills offense for the remainder of the quarter. In their last offensive drive of the third quarter, the Wolf Pack found themselves in scoring position only to be brought back by a false start. On their fourth down with two minutes left, the Wolf Pack attempted a field goal that was ruled unsuccessful and the Tigers regained possession of the ball.
Tiger offense was set to keep their momentum, pushing their way to the goal line. With 45 seconds left in the third quarter, senior Zeke Hernandez pushed his way into the end zone giving the Tigers their third touchdown, bringing the score to 34-21.
At start of the fourth quarter, both teams had slowed. Then, the West Hills offense began a strong drive and fought their way to the end zone, four minutes into the quarter. In two more plays, the Wolf Pack pushed their way to a touchdown.
As the game advanced towards its end, the teams became locked in a defensive battle. Neither defensive line allowed any points until there was less than five minutes left in game play. It was again, Tiger senior Zeke Hernandez who received the ball and broke away to score the Tigerâ€™s final touchdown. The extra point was blocked by a West Hills defensive lineman to the surprise of the Tigers, bringing the score to 41-27.
The defensive deadlock resumed as West Hills regained possession of the ball and no more points were scored for the remainder of the game. With 1:30 left in the game, the Wolf Pack took a knee for their remaining plays, bringing up the end of the game.
With heavy hearts, the Tigers accepted the end of their season gracefully. In his last game as a Tiger, it was senior Mark Benedict who was awarded Player of the Game by his fellow teammates. Benedict said, â€œIt was an honor to go on this journey with my teammates and to overcome all the adversity that we faced. At the end of the day, we all had faith in one another and nothing but love for each other.â€
Congratulations to all players and coaches on a great, hard-fought season.