The mighty Highlanders rolled into town as one of the top seeds in the division and ranked No. 2 in the state. They left shocked, devastated and realizing that their season had come to a crushing end at the hands of the underdog Broncos.
Upland’s 12-0 unbeaten program was shattered and left on the Vista Murrieta football field in this CIF Southern Section Inland Division semi-final playoff.
In a very physical game, the Bronco offensive and defensive lines took over and methodically dominated the Highlanders (AKA Scots). They set the course for the evening as Murrieta took control from the very beginning and never looked back.
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The Broncos scored first with a touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Stevens (173 yards passing, 53 rushing) to Cody Piecukonis. Later in the first quarter Cody took a Upland punt and ran it back 62 yards into to the end zone, giving Vista Murrieta a 14-0 lead.
The Scots scored a touchdown after the Broncos, once again driving, fumbled inside the Upland 20-yard line. The extra-point attempt was blocked. The Highlanders scored once again in the second quarter and at halftime it was 14-12. That’s the last time it was close.
Vista Murrieta overwhelmed Upland in the second half. The Bronco defense of Bryce Smith, Jeremy Castro, Su’a Cravens and Jason Gardner created havoc and pressure that shut down and confused Upland's explosive offense. This was a team that scored 110 points in the last two CIF playoff games.
The Broncos shut them down. Convincingly.
Vista Murrieta scored 25 points in the second half. Aaron Piecukonis ran for 133 yards and a touchdown. Nate Romaine also scored a touchdown on the ground. Darion Williams put the game away and out of reach for the Broncos with a fourth quarter 30-yard interception and touchdown. That was the play that ended any hopes for a comeback on the Upland sideline.
With the Broncos driving for yet another score with two minutes left in the game, Coach Coley Candaele showed the class that has made Vista Murrieta one of the best, most respected high school football programs in the country. Instead of running up the score and further humiliating a defeated Upland team, the Broncos took a knee inside the Highlanders 20-yard line and ran out the clock.
Vista Murrieta will now face Corona Centennial for the second year in a row in the CIF Southern Section Inland Division Championship Game. Centennial defeated Rancho Cucamonga 41-21 Friday.
For the Broncos, it is time to settle the score. In this same game last year,
--Contributed by Charles Mckee