–All content courtesy our friends at 619Sports.net

SAN MARCOS–Let a good team hang around long enough on their home field in the playoffs and it’s bound to bite you.  Compound your mistakes with a goal line fumble and a missed extra point, and your season’s probably going to come to an end.

The Mission Hills Grizzlies took advantage of Rancho Bernardo’s mistakes, then made their own luck along the way, coming up with a handful of clutch plays to pull out a 14-13 win at Jack Ashby Field on the Mission Hills campus in San Marcos.  Quarterback Hunter Moore’s 21 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Salas on a fourth quarter 4th-and-16 play gave Mission Hills (9-2) the lead with 7:10 remaining in the CIF San Diego Section Division II quarterfinal contest.

“That’s a doggone good football team over there,” said Mission Hills head coach Chris Hauser, “All along we thought it would be this kind of football game.  For whatever reason, we seemed to play better the closer they got to the goal line.  ”

And to the finish line.

Rancho Bernardo (9-3) dominated the first half but came away with just a six point lead to show for it.  Setting the tone on Tyler Gomogda’s 51 yard run on the first play from scrimmage, the Broncos racked up an astounding 259 yards of total offense before halftime.  But two red zone fumbles, including quarterback Trent Sessions fumbling on a keeper from the one-inch line, held RB to just 13 points for all their trouble.

After the half, it was a whole different story.  The Mission Hills offense was able to control possession and the clock, while the Grizzlies defense held Rancho Bernardo to just 39 total yards after intermission.

“I love our defense,” said Moore, “they come together as a team, no showboats, and they get the job done.”

Postgame video interviews: Chris Hauser/Hunter Moore

Both teams used big running plays to get their offense started.  After RB scored first on senior quarterback Devin Saunders’ 1 yard QB plunge (immediately following Gomogda’s 51 yard scamper), Mission Hills answered right back on a 56 yard scoring run from junior tailback Adam Renteria.

In a 7-7 tie, the Broncos then manufactured a pair of extended marches.  An 11 play drive took RB down to the Mission Hills 20, where senior wideout Evan Mattern caught a square out pass and then fumbled when he was hit.  The Grizzlies gratefully recovered at their 19 yard line.

“Whether they made the mistake or we caused the mistake, we’ll sure take that,” said Hauser.

Rancho Bernardo has used a two-quarterback rotation all season, and when junior Trent Sessions enters the fray (moving Devin Saunders to wideout), the Broncos have a much more balanced look.  Sessions hit on 9 of 10 second quarter passes for 105 yards.  He led an 11 play, 78 yard drive to open the quarter, twice hitting Saunders for big passes.  Setting up on first and goal at the one, RB head coach Brad Elrod decided for a quarterback sneak instead of handing the ball off to Gomogda, who had 17 touchdowns on the season.

The result: a fumble, recovered by Mission Hills in their own end zone for a touchback in the key turning point of the game.

“We had opportunities to get stuff, but…it was a great football game,” said a downcast coach Elrod after the game.

Brad Elrod postgame interview:

Next, it was Mission Hills’ turn to cough up the football, as Moore and center Elias Choufani botched a center-QB exchange on fourth and one from their own 44 yard line.  It took just five plays for the Broncos to march downfield and score, with Gomogda taking it in this time from the six-yard line for a 13-7 RB lead.  The extra point, however, was a pop fly by kicker Jeremy Hutchins which drifted right of the goalposts.

The Grizzlies thought they would catch yet another big break right before halftime, as Mission Hills punted and Broncos’ punt returner David Jones muffed the kick after signaling for a fair catch.  Luckily for Rancho Bernardo, the line judge anticipated the fair catch and inadvertently blew his whistle early, denying the Grizzlies a fumble recovery.  In fact, after a long conference the crew decided to have a do-over, giving RB another chance to return the punt.

Hauser was apoplectic on the sidelines, and the Broncos moved down to the Mission Hills 11 yard line before the half expired on a Hutchins missed field goal from 30 yards away.

In the third quarter, the roles reversed.  Mission Hills took control offensively but then made a crucial red zone error.  Senior wideout Josh Stephens (3 receptions, 81 yards) caught a 36 yard pass on third-and-13 heading into the end zone, but he fumbled on the five yard line.  RB senior defensive back Tyler Davey scooped up the fumble and returned it to his 30 yard line, ending the threat.

Zachary Andrews-Worline sacks Hunter Moore.  Both defenses played well for most of the night (Danny Heilprin/619Sports)Zachary Andrews-Worline sacks Hunter Moore. Both defenses played well for most of the night (Danny Heilprin/619Sports)

The second half remained scoreless into the fourth quarter, and looked like it might stay that way overall.  While the Grizzlies had success all night on third down (8-for-13 conversions), they failed on back-to-back passes from the RB 21 yard line midway through the fourth quarter.  Facing a fourth-and-16 and out of field goal range, Hauser elected to go for it, lining up four wide receivers spread across the field for Moore.

With excellent pocket protection, Moore (11-20, 173 yards, TD) looked off the safety and then brought his gaze back to the middle of the field, where top target Aaron Salas sprung wide open on a post route.  Moore hit Salas in stride for the game-tying touchdown pass, and Gio Garcia’s extra point gave Mission Hills a 14-13 lead.

“His route is a double move,” said Moore, “The safety couldn’t cover him and I was looking the other way as a decoy.  Then I looked back to Salas and saw him wide open.”

The Broncos had one more chance to take the game back on the road.  After Saunders (7-for-10, 45 yards) got the chance to play quarterback in RB’s two fruitless third quarter possessions, Sessions re-entered the game in the fourth quarter for one more extended drive.  Led by hard running from Gomogda (15 carries, 121 yards, TD) and Jones, the Broncos drove to the Mission Hills 27 yard line.

Suddenly, the Mission Hills pass rush made their first appearance of the night.  Sacks by Dominic Darby and Aaron Leauma pushed the Broncos back to the 39, where two passes went awry to end the possession.  On fourth and 23, Sessions was drilled by Anthony Lira, his final pass fluttering harmlessly to the turf.

Renteria (21 carries, 147 yards, TD) then picked up the final first down needed to burn through Rancho Bernardo’s timeouts and bleed out the clock.

The Grizzlies now escape this frying pan, only to walk into a den of angry Cougars next Thursday.  The 2nd seeded Steele Canyon Cougars await in East County, with the winner advancing to Qualcomm Stadium and the Division II finals on Monday, December 6th.

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