California (Week 9)
Spending the week in California wasn’t what I had planned, but I made the most of it. Spent Tuesday visiting my sister in LA and celebrating her birthday. The rest of the week was a blur and I found myself in Mira Loma, California with no means of ready transportation. Luckily, there’s a high school stadium less than a mile away that I could walk to hosting a game tonight.
The Jurupa Valley Jaguars (1-5) of Mira Loma were hosting the Norte Vista Braves (3-3) of Riverside in a Sunkist League contest at their 2,500 seat stadium at the corner of Etiwanda and Bellgrade. It sits as part of sport complex next to the high school. Natural grass field that has been beat to hell surrounded by an atmosphere killing track.
The stadium itself was nice. Albeit a tad small for such a large school (2,203 Ninth through Twelfth), seating only 2,500. The entrance to the home side is on the northwest corner of which those coming from the parking lot must cross the north ednzone perimeter to get to the ticket window and gate, rather than having the closest side to park. The stadium itself is all accessed from the front row and the storage and general access under the stadium is off limits.
The stadium runs from the 30 to the 30 with 20 rows of seats of all enclosed aluminum decking (i.e., nothing can fall through). The small press box sits atop with a porch above for filming. The visitors side is 10 rows of seats from the 30 to the 30 in a similar fashion, sans press box accessed from the northeast corner.
An adult ticket was $6 and in a first, you receive a wristband you must wear rather than receiving a ticket. Upon entering, you must walk behind the concession stand and bathroom structure to get to the back corner of the stadium to walk to the front to climb the steps. The food was decent and normal priced ($1 bottled water).
I do have one bone to pick about the stadium. The name. Like I’ve come to find out, a lot of high schools simply do not have a name for their stadium. And this is one of them. I asked a few people, consulted the $5 game program, and searched the web on my phone and still could only deduce that when they financed the sports complex they simply called it the Jurupa Valley High School Stadium Project. So, as unoriginal as that may be, that apparantly is its name.
Now, this school would have an estimated 825 enrollment figure in OHSAA terms (half the total, three-quarters of that) to be a pretty decent sized school. Yet, their band was abysmal. There were only 18 members in the band for a school of 2,200 students. Yet, in true SoCal fashion, there were 20 cheerleaders perched up on wooden crates on the track with three large speaker assemblies behind them to blare out music that they would then dance.
And this was the biggest disappointment of the night. The crowd. Now, 55 degrees in the LA Basin is pretty chilly for them, but on their home side I figured only 400, at most, were there. And I counted–yes, counted–82 fans on the visitors bleachers. This turnout was from a team fighting for the playoffs situated a little over eight miles away. To give credit to the fans, most seemed to be quite behind the team. Yet, some major plays elicited little reaction from the home crowd.
With my luck in picking home teams to cheer for, this game looked like I would be seeing another blowout. Two plays in Jurupa Valley (pronounce huh-roo-pah) were already sacked and subsequently fumbled the ensuing play. Norte Vista had the ball in excellent position and scored, 6-0 and missed the two-point run attempt.
After a failed onside kick, Jurupa Valley had to punt. Norte Vista’s QB had a 20+ yard run for a touchdown and then they converted the deuce, 14-0. Jurupa Valley then threw incomplete on fourth down with :17 to leave the quarter, Norte Vista 14, Jurupa Valley 0.
It wasn’t looking good.
But, things started looking better for the Jags. A fourth down stop of their own gave them good field position and on a desperation fourth down play, #12 Martin Mercado threw a 30+ yard touchdown pass splitting the defenders for a beautiful play. The two-point run was short and the score was 14-6 to the visitors.
Norte Vista then got sloppy and fumbled and recovered. Forced to punt, Jurupa Valley took over and threw a deep pass on a broken play where no Norte Vista defenders ran deep leaving two Jaguar receivers wide open 30 yards down field. The problem was that #12 threw between the two open targets and a diving attempt came up short for a heartbreaking incomplete. They were forced to punt.
Norte Vista then drove the length of the field right before half and had the ball stripped out at the JV-3 yard line. The Jags recovered and had 1:17 left to work with. A quick three-and-out with all incompletions left them forced to punt from their own endzone and luckily just got it off.
Norte Vista then got to work and moved the ball to the JV-25 yard line before throwing incomplete on the second, third, and fourth downs to turn it over. With 0.4 left, Jurupa Valley ran a counter to run out the half.
I stayed to watch the halftime. As depressing as it were. Eighteen band members trying to sound coordinated, yet it was depressing. The visitors didn’t bring a band and after their time was up, we sat quietly as everyone chatted either on the field or in the stands. I left after the band played for the concession stand and came back just after the third quarter had kicked off.
Norte Vista had a touchdown called back, and then a few plays later threw a wide open play-action pass for a touchdown. After missing the two-point attempt, it was 20-6. Jurupa Valley then had what I can describe as an ‘amazing’ kickoff return that involved at least four broken tackles that actually lost yardage. The returner had skills, but not the best sense of direction. He could’ve run downfield to pick up a few before going down but kept running backwards to find the seam that never opened.
After punting, Jurupa Valley got another break, picking off an overthrown ball and returning it with the aid of a facemask call to start at the Norte Vista 27 yard line. The Jaguars fumbled on second down to setup a 3rd and 12 at the 29. A great halfback screen up the middle caught the defenders in a trance and he managed to zigzag enough to find the endzone. A fifteen yard penalty pushed the PAT but to a difficult 34-yd kick that still split the uprights to make it 20-13 after three quarters.
Norte Vista was stopped on fourth down and Jurupa Valley had the ball and the momentum. Mercado’s pass to #85 Berajas was good for 33 yards on first down to the NV-45 yard line. A short pass and then a sack had setup a 4th and 9 that had doom written on it from the start. A leaky offensive line resulted in the QB scrambling to avoid the sack and threw it aimlessly to no one across the middle.
With 3:50 left, Norte Vista took over and still were in a funk. Their best weapon, #5 Gabriel Pena, was doing damage but was all they had down the stretch. A wry kid that had a Josh Cribbs feel to him. Taking direct snaps, playing tight end/guard, running back and I think a few times out wide. Their best plays were QB counters to the RB or pulling tight end as either a sweep wide or off tackle. He also had the black hair below the helmet like Cribbs.
Yet, they were forced to punt and this left me a little puzzled. On the kick, the ball hit the ground and started rolling. The return man kept backing away from it to let it roll and got blasted by a Norte Vista player. After the play was dead, they moved the ball only five yards for the penalty (there were no announcement of penalties either by the official or the announcer) and I can’t imagine what happened on that play that resulted in only a five yard foul.
Jurupa Valley started out at their own 25 with 2:02 left and #12 was forced to throw it away. On third down, he threw over the middle, but short hopped it. Then on fourth with 1:51 left, Norte Vista sent the house and #12 had to throw aimlessly to avoid the sack and there were no receivers anywhere near the pass.
Norte Vista got the ball and got a long run from the 25 down to the 8 to let the clock run. One more snap and the game ended, 20-13.
Despite the small crowd, this was a fun game. The team Calpreps picked to lose by almost 30 hung around and had a few chances. Pena #5 for Notre Vista was just a force and fun to watch. It was an enjoyable evening once again. Seeing some high school football from around the country.
In other games this weekend, a recap of the teams I’ve seen so far this year. Laurens (SC) lost 23-14 to Easley (SC) and are now 4-5. Memphis (TX) lost again, 49-32 to Shamrock (TX) and are still winless on the year, 0-8. Des Moines North (IA) faced Des Moines Hoover (IA) and something had to give as both teams came into their finale with zeroes in the win column. the North Polar Bears finally got to celebrate, 33-28 to finish their season 1-8. In Nebraska, Lincoln Southeast beat Grand Island 21-20 after stopping a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute to take the league crown and end the Islanders regular season at 6-3. And the last non-Ohio school I’ve seen at their home field, little Class A Cochranton Cardinals finally broke into the win column hosting and defeating winless Eisenhower, 32-7, in their final home game of the season.
Where will I be next week? No clue. But, God willing, there will be a high school game nearby.