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Hillmen can't halt Whitney's perfection

Placer's five turnovers, Graves' 214 yards lead to big win for the Wildcats
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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There’s no secret to Whitney High’s success on the football field. Placer knew what to expect from the visitors Friday night at Le Febvre Stadium, but the Hillmen joined the nine other foes that have tried and failed to stop the Wildcats. Whitney turned five Placer turnovers into four touchdowns and finished off a 10-0 regular season with a 34-12 victory. The Wildcats clinched their first outright Pioneer Valley League football championship in just their third season with varsity sports. “To be undefeated, win the league title, it’s great,” said Whitney senior Nick Law, who led a defense that held Placer to just 187 total yards. “We prepare really good. We knew exactly what they were going to do and we were able to execute and stop it.” The Hillmen could not stop Zack Graves. The senior rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries. The Wildcats pulled away in the second half after leading just 13-12 at the break. Jake Snyder made a beautiful 29-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Charlie Hetland to make it 20-12. Graves fumbled on Whitney’s next possession as Matt Ross recovered. But Placer immediately gave the b all back on a fumble, which was scooped up by Ryan Sowma. The Wildcats sealed up the win with two more touchdowns from Graves. The second one was set up by Law’s fumble recovery. “We pride ourselves in being a second-half team,” Snyder said. “We try to keep a lot of energy the entire game while the other team is tiring out. “ Placer hung with the league champs in the first half despite its miscues. Whitney senior Taylor Irwin picked off a Matt Ross pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring. But Placer senior Blake Schaffer took the ensuing kickoff back 91 yards down the Whitney sideline for a game-tying touchdown. In the second quarter, Jon Slane’s fumble recovery led to a 54-yard scoring march for the Hillmen. Asher Gotzmer’s 37-yard touchdown scamper put the Hillmen up 12-6. The Whitney offense went three-and-out late in the second quarter, but got another shot when senior Ryan Schermerhorn picked off a pass near midfield. The Wildcats cashed in with Zack Graves’ seven-yard touchdown run 24 seconds before halftime. Jordan Little’s extra point kick gave the Wildcats the lead for good. “We go down by one point at half and our kids were confident,” Placer coach Joey Montoya said. “We were right there with them. But we got out of rhythm and Whitney was able to capitalize.” Placer (2-8 ovverall, 2-4 PVL) is still awaiting a final decision on its appeal of three forfeits. The Hillmen challenged the Sac-Joaquin Section’s ruling that the school filed improper paperwork for a player who transferred from Bethel High in Vallejo. If the appeal is upheld, Placer would earn the third seed out of the PVL for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. Junior varsity Placer 42, Whitney 20 – The Hillmen wrapped up the outright PVL crown with a dominant performance against the Wildcats. Quarterback Collin Burnett had a great night passing the ball while Darren Centi and Josh Turney also played well on offense. Placer finished 6-0 in the PVL and 9-1 overall.