Linebacker Mike Almodovar's fourth-quarter interception of a Parker Erickson pass -- with a minute left -- sealed the Nighthawk victory Friday night. Murrieta Valley held on to defeat its cross-town rival, Murrieta Mesa, 33-30, in front of a packed Nighthawk Stadium crowd.
Coach Justin Schaeffer’s Rams came in to the game seeking the team's first league victory. With starting quarterback Chase Chambers injured and limited in playing time, Schaeffer adjusted his offense and attacked the Nighthawks on the ground, as well as in the air.
The Ram offensive attack took the Murrieta Valley defense by surprise. It disrupted a Nighthawk defense that had only allowed 32 points in its first six games. It scored 30 points in a see-saw battle that kept the crowd on the edge all evening.
The Rams scored first, after QB Erickson drove the Rams down to the Nighthawk red zone on their first possession on a series of runs. Erickson then hit Kyler Vasquez for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
The Nighthawks countered on their first possession. MV wide receiver Hector Bautista caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Blake. Bautista had 12 receptions for 142 yards against the Rams. Alex Montion added a 27-yard field goal and the Hawks led 10-7.
The Rams came right back in the second quarter. Chase Chambers entered the game and engineered a drive resulting in a 27-yard touchdown pass to Gilbert Toves.
As the half was coming to an end, the Rams were forced to start on their 2-yard line after a perfect punt by MV kicker Logan Matthews. The Nighthawk defense rose to the occasion, forcing a Ram fumble that Davis Day recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. At the half, Mesa trailed the Nighthawks 14-17.
The Nighthawks scored twice in the third quarter, both on runs by Jacob Augustin. Augustin had 184 yards against a tough Ram defense led by Clayton Willis, Dallin Inman and Ozzie Llamas.
Chambers connected with Toves again for the Rams on a 6-yard TD strike. As the third quarter ended the Rams trailed 22-30.
The quarter was when the Nighthawks created the big plays to turn away the Rams and slip away with the win. The first was an apparent touch down pass from Chambers to Khalil Sharpe that was intercepted by Damon Nolan in the end zone.
Then the Rams drove to the Nighthawk 2-yard line and stalled, turning the ball over to the Nighthawks after an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion. Three plays later, Augustin took a Blake handoff and ran the ball to the Ram 29. Moments later Alex Montion kicked his second field goal of the game, extending the MV lead to 33-20.
The Rams were not about to quit. Erickson drove the Rams down the field after the kickoff. His 1-yard touchdown run and the ensuing 2-point conversion by Kyler Vasquez made the score 33-30.
The Rams then forced and recovered a Nighthawk fumble deep in Murrieta Valley territory. That’s when Nighthawk Mike Almodovar intercepted the Erickson pass to save the Murrieta Valley victory.
Mesa came ready to knock off the 6-0 Nighthawks and put a damper on Murrieta Valley’s Homecoming festivities. The Rams will take on Temecula Valley next week and are still looking for that elusive first league victory.
The Nighthawks remain undefeated at 7-0 and will host the No. 1-ranked Broncos next week. Coach Greg Ireland stressed to his team after the game that the Nighthawks are no longer a 7-0 team.
“We start all over tonight. We are now 0-0 ... and we need step it up," Ireland said.