Undefeated Vista Murrieta High School football defends its CIF Southern Section Inland Division Championship Friday Night against the dangerous Cougars from Norco High School.
Coach Coley Candaele’s Broncos have not lost on the playing fields in an unprecedented 25 games. The last time the Broncos lost was to Corona Centennial in the 2010 Championship game.
That was also the last year the Broncos and Cougars played, when Vista Murrieta beat Norco 45-6 to eliminate the Cougars from the playoffs.
Coach Candaele is looking for a little déjà vu Friday night as his team faces a revitalized Norco team in round two of CIF Southern Section Ford Championships, Presented by Farmers, Football Playoffs.
The Cougars have rebounded from a three-game losing streak that struck them midseason. They have dominated since and have won the last four games, outscoring opponents 138-26. Norco crushed Redlands East Valley in round one of the CIF Playoffs 50-22 last week.
Norco Head Football Coach Todd Gerhart’s Cougars are led by his son, quarterback Coltin Gerhart. He has thrown for 1,194 yards and eight touchdowns this year. He has run for 1,091 yards and 18 TDs. Senior running back Joseph Ajeigbe led the Cougars with 1,323 rushing yards.
When Norco throws the ball, it is usually headed to Matthew Williams, Kyle Gonzalez or Juan Acosta. They combined for 66 receptions this year.
The Norco defense shut down Redlands East Valley in the second half of last week’s playoff game. They are led by seniors Troy Vanscourt, Justin Martin and Gabriel Barton.
Coach Candaele’s Broncos coasted to a 34-6 win over South Hills last week. Led by quarterback Nick Stevens, Vista Murrieta has a potent, explosive offense.
Stevens has a well of talented receivers to throw to: Darrel Denby, Colin Baker and Jamie Nunley can catch the ball in the clutch. Su’a Cravens will also be back in uniform for the Norco game.
Stevens and junior Kishawn Holmes have been the moving the chains on the ground all season. Bezhawn Hill and Keiron Long balance out the running game for the Broncos.
Vista Murrieta’s defense has established itself as the best in the division. They have only given up 115 points over an 11-game span and have shut out the other team twice in their last three games.
The core of the Broncos' punishing, aggressive defensive unit are defensive ends Tyler Cook, Curtis Bolton and tackle Grant Cleary.
Middle linebacker Bryce Smith anchors the opportunistic, swarming defense. Defensive linemen Ray Faoliu, Ricardo Mermea and John Hall solidify the group. Cravens has been a standout on both sides of the ball.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Cougar Stadium in Norco. Make the trek north to support the Broncos as they move one step closer to repeating as CIF Southern Section Inland Division Champions.