SHASTA LAKE — West Valley got what it wanted. Central Valley got what it needed. And the fans in attendance at Ron Hale Memorial Stadium saw one of the best games of the season as the Eagles outlasted the Falcons 19-13 in overtime.
West Valley was seeking to go undefeated … and did with a 19-yard Holden Gilbert touchdown in the extra time providing the difference. Central Valley (3-2) was looking to knock off their Northern Athletic League foe, but in the end showed it’s a program on the rise and will battle tough for 48 minutes and more, if necessary.
“I don’t like losing at anything, but that was incredible,” CV coach Aaron Richards said of his team’s grit. “I told the seniors they were gypped out of a playoff game … I think we would’ve played Lassen or Sutter or even this club if there had been playoffs, so I told them ‘This is your playoff game.’ ”
West Valley, meanwhile, finishes 5-0 under first-year coach Lenny Ehn and extended the Eagles’ regular-season win streak to 23 games.
Up 19-13, the Eagles defense just needed to stop the Falcons from scoring and kicking the extra point. CV ran dives to Jonny Mack on first and second down, then an off-tackle run to Kade Crowell on third down setting up a fourth-and-5 from the 20. The Eagles then stuffed an option pitch to Jarron Kurtti to seal the victory.
“Once we were able to score in overtime, it put the pressure on them,” Ehn said. “Our defense stepped up (in overtime) and there was elation on the sideline when that final play was over.”
The Falcons came out in the first half, bound and determined to use their wishbone/veer attack to control the clock and keep West Valley’s potent offense off the field. And it worked as the home team ran 36 plays to the Eagles’ 15 plays in the first half.
After each team had the ball once in the opening quarter, the Falcons took over on their own 10 and proceeded to bleed nearly 10 minutes from the end of the first and into the second quarter. They engineered a 75-yard, 21-play drive – aided by a roughing the punter and pass interference call that negated an interception – that ended with a 32-yard Russell Baker field goal.
The Falcons’ onside kick caught West Valley napping and eight plays later, Baker nailed a 26-yarder to put CV up 6-0 with just under 2:30 left in half.
“We’re used to being the underdog and it’s honestly where we’re most comfortable,” said CV senior Kade Crowell, “and when you come out and smack them in the mouth, it don’t lie. They most definitely weren’t ready for it.”
The Eagles went intermission down 6-0 after Willie Mowry picked off Noah Mason in the end zone as West Valley was looking for the go-ahead score with seconds left in the half.
“Aaron is such a good coach and I knew they were going to give it their all,” Ehn said. “That team is well coached and he’s got a good bunch of seniors and I’ll tell you what, they hit you in the mouth and don’t back down.
“We’ve been ahead every game this season and this was the first time we’ve been behind in the second half.”
But things didn’t start out well for the visitors as Josh Aguilar fumbled on the Eagles’ first play of the second half. However, the Falcons couldn’t capitalize as Baker’s 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right four plays later.
On the ensuing possession, West Valley got moving, running the ball nine straight times with Gilbert and Aguilar that resulted in a 3-yard Gilbert TD with just over 2 minutes left in the third period.
The Eagles looked to break the game open as Hayden Boyes intercepted a Mowry pass, returning it to the 3, where Gilbert punched it in for a 13-6 West Valley lead. Gilbert finished with 131 yards rushing on 17 carries and all three West Valley scores.
“It’s all about heart,” Boyes said. “I think in the first half we were really lackadaisical and didn’t come to play the game we wanted to play.
“But in the fourth quarter, we knew ‘Hey, we’re the undefeated kids here. We need to get this win.’ ”
However, CV answered on its next possession, capping a seven-play, 65-yard drive with a 39-yard Mack TD run on a dive where he broke two tackles on his way to pay dirt to tie the game at 13. Mack ran for 112 yards on 18 carries and the one score. Crowell added 51 yards on 17 carries.
“We knew they were going to respond and we talked at halftime about how will we respond and ride that wave,” Richards said. “And it’s the same thing over and over, my kids don’t quit. I don’t know what it is, they don’t give up. They’re going to fight you tooth and nail until the very last second.”
CV held a driving West Valley squad on 4th-and-2 deep in Falcons territory and looked to be in position to drive, drain the clock and set themselves up for a possible game-winner from Baker. But Crowell fumbled just inside Eagles’ territory.
West Valley had one final shot to end it in regulation, but two Hail Mary heaves were broken up by CV defenders, forcing an overtime frame not seen in Shasta County in years.
Boyes said he knew that Eagles would find the end zone in the bonus frame.
“I was thinking ‘There’s no chance we’re losing this game,’ ” he said.
On the other side, Crowell fought back tears as hugs flowed and reflected on his part in a rebirth at CV as the Falcons finish 3-2 and with a winning record for the first time since the 2013 season.
“The phrase ‘Leaving it better than you found it’ comes into play,” he said. “That was the seniors’ goal to leave this program better than when we got here.
“We came out to shock the world tonight. It didn’t happen, but at the end of the day I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished in our four years, changing the culture.”
- Redding Rancheria Player of the Game: Shasta Defense
- #23 Shasta College defense forces six turnovers in 31-6 win over rival Siskiyous
- KNIGHT NOTES: #23 Shasta looks for first conference win at Siskiyous Saturday
- KNIGHT TIME: Oct. 21 Shasta College football podcast
- Loss drops Shasta College to 23rd in CCCAA Top 25 poll