Hillmen halt Rams' 15-game run

Placer's defense rises to the occasion, helping the visitors overcome 18 penalties
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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ORANGEVALE — The Placer High football team needed a stout defense and plenty of patience to snap Casa Roble’s 15-game winning streak Friday night. The Hillmen gutted out a 31-30 victory, overcoming 18 penalties and two turnovers to stun the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions. "I have to give it to Casa Roble, they’re a great team," said Placer senior Michael Gray, who pounced on a fumble deep in Rams’ territory to set up the winning touchdown — a 2-yard plunge by Josh Turney with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left. The Rams (2-1) didn’t go down without a fight, rallying behind senior Anthony Santiago. He capped a 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left. Trailing 31-30, coach Norm Ryan was set on going for the win. But Justin Tann’s fade pass to Scott Patalano floated out of bounds and Placer celebrated a signature win under third-year coach Joey Montoya. “It was a no-brainer — we’re never going for a tie on our home field,” Casa Roble coach Norm Ryan said. Senior Dalton Dyer rushed for a career-high 126 yards for the Hillmen (3-0). “No. 21 (Dyer) played an awesome game,” Ryan said. “He’s a man-child.” Senior Asher Gotzmer added 128 yards and two touchdowns while Turney rushed for 65 yards and two TDs. Senior Cameron Southward kick an all-important 38-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half to give Placer an improbable 17-16 lead at the break. Southward also had two interceptions and broke up a Hail Mary pass by Tann on the final play of the game. The Hillmen found themselves down 7-0 less than three minutes into the game after Houston Wilfley ripped the ball out of Turney’s hands and went 61 yards the other way for a touchdown. Placer answered with an 81-yard march and tied the score on a 1-yard run by Turney. Placer’s offense was erratic early, thanks in large part to 13 first-half penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Montoya. There were 28 flags thrown in the game, costing Placer 132 yards and Casa Roble 90. "I put a lot of the blame on myself," Montoya said. "I lost my composure with the refs. The kids follow their leader, so how can I expect them to keep their composure when their coach is blowing his lid. For the second week in a row, we had some interesting calls. But I’m so proud of our kids. They deserve this. “We wanted to make a statement tonight and we beat a great football team." Placer’s defense gave up 169 rushing yards to Santiago. But Casa Roble’s spread option, no-huddle attack managed just 120 yards through the air. Tann was 11-for-26 with two interceptions. The Hillmen defense came up with its biggest play just after the Rams’ Dylan Rice intercepted a pass deep in his own territory. Senior linebacker Josh Klem stripped Santiago and Gray hustled to recover the ball, leading to the winning score. “We knew that for us to get to the next level, our defense had to play great and they did that tonight,” Montoya said. Junior Varsity The Hillmen were far from perfect, but the defense held strong and Johnny Foley found tight end Tanner Jay with a 35-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to seal a 28-16 victory. “We didn’t play well in the second and third quarters, we just hit a lull,” Placer coach Rick Foley said. “But we had a nice drive there at the end and we found a way to win.” Placer overcame two lost fumbles to improve to 3-0 on the season. David Daniel, Peter Ho and Will Slane had touchdown runs for the Hillmen.