Fall River earns back-to-back Division V titles with snowy 26-6 victory over Los Molinos
MCARTHUR – On a frigid Friday night with three inches of snow blanketing the Fall River football field, the Bulldogs won their second consecutive Northern Section Division V title – and third in five years – outscoring Los Molinos 20-0 in the second half en route to a 20-6 victory in the Tri Counties Bank Game of the Week.
The elements were certainly in play as the snow made traction and hanging on to the rock a factor and temperatures hovered in the low 20s throughout the night in the Battle of the Bulldogs.
Fall River fumbled on its first two possessions as sophomore quarterback Ryan Osborne coughed it up both times, once at the end of a five-yard run and the other on a mishandled snap. But Los Molinos, in its first year at 11-man football after winning the 8-man title last season, had trouble hanging on to the rock as well, coughing it up on the first play after Osborne’s second fumble.
But the visitors limited the damage and forced a Fall River punt, which died like a nine-iron chip shot on the 50-yard line. On the next play, freshman quarterback Nick Macias hit Hiram Lamkins in stride on a 9-route down the visitor’s sideline and the visitors took a 6-0 lead eight minutes into the game after the conversion failed.
The home team would wait until late in the second quarter before finding the equalizer. Fall River would threaten on its second to last possession of the half, only to have Los Molinos hold on a fourth-and-9 from the 10 after a five-yard completion from Osborne to Kenny Westlund. But the Fall River defense forced a three-and-out and a 24-yard Lamkins punt gave the hosts excellent starting field position on the Los Molinos 35. Eight plays later, Timmy Westlund plunged in from a yard out to knot the score at 6 as intermission came a minute later.
“I thought the guys played great in the first half,” Fall River coach Todd Sloat said. “They wrapped up and pursued to the ball. Even though we turned the ball over several times in the first half, the defense made great stops and gave up one big pass.”
Neither team scorched the stat sheet in the opening half as Fall River gained 78 yards rushing and 25 through the air. Los Molinos, meanwhile, was held to the 50-yard TD pass and 36 yards on the ground, a significant decrease as lead back Hunter Landingham churned out more than 2,400 yards this season. Landingham finished with 42 yards on nine carries.
“We knew coming in after playing them and watching film that he’s a force to be reckoned with,” Osborne said of Landingham. “That was our entire game plan, shutting him down. Forcing them to beat us in other ways.
“We did a good job, probably even better than we did last time. We did a lot better job containing him, and the elements helped too, but that was the main focus of the defense.”
Out of the half, Fall River fumbled on its first play, but Los Molinos couldn’t capitalize as an offensive pass interference and holding call forced the visitors into a second-and 35 from their own 29. On second down, Macias threw into double coverage and was intercepted by sophomore Evan Dobson on the Fall River 45.
Sloat’s team drove to the Los Molinos 29, where it faced a fourth-and-6. The coach called for an option pass right and Kenny Westlund went up for Osborne’s slightly under-thrown pass and snagged it away from the cornerback at the goal line for a 12-6 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
“It was a great play by him,” Osborne said of his fellow sophomore. “I mislead him into the middle a little bit but all credit to Kenny. He made a great catch. I didn’t put the ball where I wanted to, but he did the rest.”
But Sloat also had praise for his signal-caller.
“Kenny has great ball skills,” the coach said. “We’ve been running option a lot, so we went option pass right, sent Kenny vertical and the inside guy vertical and Ryan picked the right guy to throw to.”
Trailing 12-6 entering the fourth, Los Molinos went to the air on its first fourth-quarter possession. But three straight incompletions and a punt gave Fall River the ball back on the Los Molinos 45.
Nine plays later – and aided by a Los Molinos unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and face mask penalty – sophomore Royce Knoch waltzed in from a yard out to give Fall River a 20-6 lead with just over 4 minutes remaining.
“We lost our momentum and the hype was gone and it just went downhill from there,” Landingham said of allowing 20 unanswered points in the second half. “Maybe they’re used to the environment. It’s freezing up here and we’re just not used to that. Home field advantage and everything just added up.”
On the ensuing Los Molinos possession, Osborne forced a strip-sack on Macias and returned the ball to the 7-yard line. Frustrations boiled over and one Los Molinos player was ejected as Fall River iced the Ice Bowl win with a Kenny Westlund touchdown from a yard out six plays later. He finished with a team-high 51 yards rushing on 14 carries. Older brother Timmy Westlund had 46 yards on 11 carries and Osbrone finished with 24 yards on 19 carries. He also was 6-of-15 passing for 56 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a lot of adversity throughout the year and there were some doubters out there that weren’t expecting us to come up to what has happened in the past,” Osborne said of living up to the legacy of last year’s 12-0 section title team. “I think we used that as fuel; a young team, but young team and super-skilled and passionate team and that carried us through – that chip on the shoulder.”
Sloat agreed that while thrilled to win the crown a second straight year, he wasn’t sure this season was going to be the championship year at the onset.
“This team is exciting and loaded with sophomores and depth at various spots. If we can stay healthy, we’re going to add some guys to it next year and we can only get better,” he said. “We probably weren’t expected to win it this year, so I’m proud of the guys for getting better each week.
“We didn’t play great (tonight), but we played good enough to win.”