Pack football plays tough against strong Damien squad
Claremont High School Coach Shane Hile once said the only thing that really matters after 48 minutes of football, is when you look up at the scoreboard and whoever has the most points wins the game.
Apologies to Coach Hile, because he also said over and over again the most important aspect of the game is developing boys into young men—which brings up Friday night’s game against rival Damien High School.
At the end of the game, the scoreboard at Claremont High clearly read Damien 26, Claremont 14. However, the Wolfpack had an important victory by consistently shutting down a stronger opponent, which can’t help but develop character in these young athletes.
For some background reference, last season the Spartans ran over the Pack with a convincing 42-7 victory. During that game, Claremont was so outplayed Damien literally scored touchdowns at will. In the final quarter, the Spartans subbed in their second string.
So, it’s no surprise Damien came into Friday’s game with a certain air of inevitability. However, from the 0-0 score at the end of the first quarter, it was clear it was no longer 2018.
“We played them tough and, yes, we have another year under our belt with a little more experience and that definitely helps,” Coach Hile said.
The Spartan offense came alive in the second quarter, resulting in three unanswered touchdowns and a 20-0 lead. They were certain to take a big lead into the halftime break. Except for one small detail, there were still 20 seconds on the clock.
It’s unclear whether Damien was not paying attention, or really did think all they had to do was show up and win. But, as that kickoff sailed through the night air, it landed in the hands of Claremont junior Isaiah Love, who ran 95 yards for a touchdown without even so much as a touch from a Spartan defender.
This is where the game’s psychology switched in favor of the Pack. Damien came back in the second half clearly off balance, and they started to make mistakes with dropped passes, broken plays and penalties. Claremont capitalized when junior quarterback Rickey Murillo connected with junior Ryan Campuzano for a 79-yard touchdown. All of a sudden CHS was only behind 20-14, with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
Damien got a final touchdown with eight minutes left in the game, setting up what would ultimately be the final score.
Claremont’s final possession came with less than three minutes on the clock. They still needed two touchdowns to win. Even though they were running out of time, making it unlikely they could pull off a win, the team played their best football of the entire game. It’s as though a light came on and the Pack saw the potential for a victory. Murillo passed to Love for 38 yards that would have been a touchdown, if not for one lone Spartan defender tripping him up.
Then the boys came up with another first down on Damien’s 15-yard line. For the next set of downs, Murillo’s passing remained sharp, but ultimately could not connect for a score. Unfortunately, he was sacked, bringing up a fourth down that Claremont did not convert, ending the game. Still, the boys walked into the locker room with their heads held high.
It could be inexperience due to the new season or first game jitters, but Claremont clearly has some kinks to work out. Too often it seemed players were unclear about running a play, resulting in mental mistakes.
Also, Claremont’s rushing game never really developed. They had 19 carries for 58 yards, for just 3.1 yards per carry. The two times the Pack truly broke through the Spartan defense occurred when Murillo went long for a big play.
“It’s the first game, and we were working out the kinks against a tough opponent. But for the most part the boys did a good job. We had our fair share of mistakes and that is what cost us the game. We felt that Damien did not beat us, we beat ourselves. That is an honest assessment on our part, ” Coach Hile said during practice on Tuesday.
He also clarified the overall game plan was to focus on the running game.
“The run game will always be a priority because if you can control the line of scrimmage you can control the game. But we did not do a good job on the line of scrimmage on Friday night and obviously that hurt us,” he said. “That was our game plan and it was working for us. We don’t want to panic and start throwing the hell out of the ball. We want to be balanced; to be able to run it, and throw it.”
Coach Hile named senior Christopher Lopez player of the game for his tenacity on defense, a total of 14 tackles, including eight solo and two sacks. “He had a lot of tackles and really dominated on the line of scrimmage,” Coach Hile said. “He did a great job at nose guard and he also played guard on the offensive line.”
A number of the Claremont players play both sides, which is why Coach Hile focuses on conditioning by running numerous drills like wind sprints.
“I tease them sometimes that we are the Claremont cross country team part two,” he said. “But we have to condition like that because we have so many guys that are playing offense, defense and special teams. Some of these guys don’t come off the field for the whole game. It’s true Ironman football. To their credit, these boys work their tails off. It’s not easy, I know that and I appreciate that.”
It paid off Friday night. Last year Claremont had a problem with the team running out of steam in the second half, but Friday they did not lose to fatigue. “We are not as deep as we would like to be, but the kids we have are in tip top shape,” Coach Hile said.
Claremont has two quarterbacks who could start any game this season, Murillo and senior James Brazzill, both of whom will have to fight to be the starter each week, which is a good position for the Pack to be in.
Defending Palomares League champion Glendora looks to be strong again. They beat Damien and have a solid football team, according to Coach Hile “It’s a tough league for us, there are no ‘give me’ games in league at all, we have to fight and scratch to win, and that is what we practice to do,” he said.
Next up for the Pack is an away game against Diamond Bar on Friday at 7 p.m.
WEEKLY ROUND UP
The Pack went 5-1 at the Azusa Tournament last week, beating Baldwin Park, Charter Oak (twice), Woodcrest Christian and Western Christian. Their only loss was to El Dorado in the finals, which earned them the runner up trophy.
On Tuesday the girls lost a competitive match to Etiwanda, 3-1. Claremont won the first set, 25-23, but dropped the next three, 25-19, 25-14 and 24 17.
Next up the girls travel to Upland for another non-conference match.
CHS girls varsity tennis traveled to Los Osos to open up their 2019 season on Wednesday and came away with a 12-6 win. The Pack’s strong singles lineup of Goldie La, Jacqueline Pearsall and newcomer Sydney La didn’t drop a set in the Pack’s victory.
The Wolfpack will compete in the Beckman Tennis Tournament this weekend at David Sills Lower Peters Canyon Park in Irvine.
Webb boys water polo
The Gauls are off to a mixed start with a 11-6 victory over Cabrillo and a narrow 14-17 loss to Burbank last week, followed by a decisive 23-2 loss to Glendora on Tuesday.
Webb Girls Volleyball
Vivian Webb volleyball is well into their preseason games with wins last week over Ontario, 3-1, and Ganehsa, 3-0. On Tuesday they beat Rowland in straight sets, 25-18, 25-21 and 25-18.
CMS tennis standout wins Arthur Ashe award
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Julian Gordy has been named one of ten Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Arthur Ashe Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award winners for 2019.
Gordy is the men’s NCAA Division III recipient and was honored as part of the opening weekend of the 2019 US Open Championship, August 23 to 25 in Forrest Hills, New York.
The ITA Arthur Ashe Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award recognizes outstanding individuals in all divisions at the regional and national level.
Gordy had a combined 157 college career wins, posting records of 60-22 in singles and 97-44 in doubles. He was a three-time All-American in doubles and finished among the top five in all-time doubles wins for the Stags. He helped Claremont-Mudd-Scripps reach the NCAA finals twice and was a two-time winner in doubles at Ojai Valley Tournament.
Gordy earned the Hank Krieger Award for CMS Athletics, presented to the senior who most excelled in athletics, academics, and leadership. He is also a four-time SCIAC Scholar Athlete and ITA Academic All American, and majored in economics & accounting and graduated cum laude with a 3.80 GPA.