The CIF Southern Section Inland Division Championship lived up to all expectations as Vista Murrieta and Corona Centennial thrilling the standing-room-only crowd of 7,000 plus fans at VMHS.
The Broncos took their loyal supporters on an emotional rollercoaster ride Friday night, taking the lead early and holding it throughout the game before falling behind in the fourth quarter. With time running out and the championship on the line, the Broncos pulled victory out of the clutches of defeat with a winning drive with only 26 seconds left in the game.
The Broncos led from the start, scoring on their first two possessions. Tyler Rausa kicked a field goal and Nick Stevens hit Su’a Cravens with a 5-yard touchdown pass. Defensively, Vista Murrieta set the tone for the evening and proved that they could contain the Huskies potent offense.
Trailing 10-0, Centennial finally started executing their game plan drove the ball downfield and scored on a Romello Goodman 3-yard run up the middle. Both teams played at an exceptional level and were well matched; at the half the score was 17-14.
The Huskies won the CIF Championship with a over Vista Murrieta last year. They have dominated the Division, winning six titles in the past 10 years. The Broncos, who have been to the CIF finals the past three years, without a victory were looking to avenge last year’s loss and bring home the CIF crown as the second half started.
As the second half began, Vista Murrieta scored again. The Broncos cruised to a 24-14 lead as the third quarter ended. When Tyler Rausa added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend the Bronco lead to 27-14, it looked like the game was safely out of reach for Bronco fans.
Then the pain and anxiety began.
The Huskies showed why they have been so successful over the past 10 years and staged a furious comeback. They scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 27-21 with time running out and the game on the line. Only three and a half minutes left to play, Centennial quarterback Hayden Garrett hit Giles Guy-Williams on a 21-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. The ensuing extra-point kick gave the Huskies a 28-27 lead.
You could feel the silence on the Vista Murrieta sideline.
With the season slipping away, the Broncos showed the poise and passion that Coach Cody Candaele has infused in his team. On their last drive, Vista Murrieta faced several game ending fourth-down situations.
The Broncos Bradley Trujillo made an incredible game extending catch on a fourth down that kept Vista Murrieta’s offense on the field. A Huskies' penalty on the following fourth-down situation was all the Broncos needed.
With less than two minutes to play, Vista was driving the ball into Centennial territory in an attempt to set up a Tyler Rausa field goal. With 26 seconds left, Nick Stevens faked a handoff to Aaron Piecukonis and ran the ball 30 yards into the end zone for the lead.
He then hit Nick Chase with a pass for the two-point conversion. The play sealed the victory and Championship for the Broncos.
It was a thrilling, emotional game for players and Broncos fans alike. The huge boisterous loyal home crowd exploded in celebration as time ran out and Coach Cody Candaele's Broncos brought Vista Murrieta the CIF Championship.
Note: Best wishes to senior linebacker Jason Gardner, who was injured and had to leave the game.
--Contributed by Charles Mckee