The Rams came into this game with what can arguably be called the best team they have ever fielded. At 7-0, this would be the game that proved they were for real. They were undefeated and hungry to slay the dragon. They had not beaten a Grossmont team in 12 tries. Were the Rams for real despite the fact they hadn't beaten any above .500 teams? While on the other side of the field was a Griffins team that has improved every week after an early season loss to Mt SAC. Although still trying to find their rhythm on offense, the Griffs were not quite ready to give up their place on top of the Foothill conference heirarchy. In the end it was mistakes and turnovers that hurt the Rams quest for the title, as two key fumbles played a part in their eventual 16-7 loss.
Both defenses came out ready to prove that they were the best in the Foothill. Grossmont was stopped on their first possession, but they got the ball back quickly when Nate Schad picked off a Michael Woods pass. Early on, it looked as if WR Brandon Bryan might be a match-up problem for the Ram secondary because of his size. A few passes to him, and a pass interference set up a 9 yard sweep for 6 by Cedric Warren, giving the Griffs a 7-0 lead.
The rest of the half was filled full of big hits by both defenses. RB Dexter Guidry was most of the Victorville offense, as he plowed through a tough Griffin Defensive line. But there were just as many runs for a loss as there were positive yards in this game. The breezy afternoon made for a tough day throwing the ball, as if it weren't tough enough to move the ball. The only real threat the Rams made in the first half was when Jahan Jones almost made a circus catch in the corner of the endzone with Geoffery Howard and Sharrod Davis blanketing him.
Grossmont could not take advantage of a Guidry fumble at the Ram 22-yard line. Guidry was fighting for extra yards and was stripped of the ball. The Rams took down Kevin Smith for a three yard loss, then Andre Marshall almost picked off a screen pass.
A 30-yard field goal attempt was then blocked. The rest of the half was dominated by both defenses, and the visiting Griffins took that 7-0 lead to the locker room.
Nate Shad picked off his second pass of the day early in the second half. The Ram defense held, but a great punt by Jared Ballman pinned Victorville back on their own 5 yard line. The Rams Anthony Baker tried to sweep left, having to take a few steps back to go around defenders, and ultimately lost the handle on the ball. It ended up bouncing backwards about a yard and through the endzone sideline for a safety, giving Grossmont a 9-0 lead.
The lack of offense by the Rams, and an occasional offsides penalty on the defense was starting to take a toll. It looked as though the Griffins were wearing them down slowly. QB John Soli was guiding the Griffs downfield looking for the killer score. But a bobbled snap late in the 3rd led to a wide right field goal, and with just over a quarter left, the Rams still had life.
But the momentum seemed to change when it was Grossmont's turn to get whistled. An encroachment and a pass interference against them brought the Rams out to their own 40. They stalled, but Grossmont fumbled on a bad center exchange putting the Rams in business deep in Griff territory. A personal foul penalty bailed out the Rams on a 3rd and 12, setting up a 23 yard strike from Woods to a wide open Kendrell Barthelemy over the middle and in the endzone to cut the lead to 9-7.
That gave the Ram defense new life as they stiffened up and knocked the Griff offense backwards on their next possession. It was Grossmont's turn to make mistakes on defense, as the Rams drove down into chip shot field goal range with a nice run off left tackle by Issac Newton. But fate was not on the Ram's side. With only 6" between the Rams and the go ahead score, they fumbled the ball into the endzone when Valentno Tofaeono and Ryan Glazer made a big hit on the runner, and Nate Dolan recovered the ball for a touchback. The game was put away when a desperate Ram defense crowded the box, and Cedric Warren slipped through a crack and rambled 42 yards to put the game away 16-7.
Grossmont now has a firm grasp on the Foothill Title. They close the season with games at home against a winless Antelope Valley team, then San Diego Mesa with a bye week in between. They will emerge as Conference Champs, and a earn a playoff spot for the SoCal Championship. This team showed a lot of discipline against a very good Ram team in a position to knock them off. John Soli did not panic in this game, and although confronted with probably the best defense he has seen all year, did a good job of managing the team. He ended up 11/20 for 102 yards and most importantly in a game like this, no interceptions. Nate Schad had 3 big interceptions in this game. He now leads the team with a total of 4 in only his third career start. Brandon Brian had 4 receptions for about 40 yards. Woods had close to 70 yards on only 7 carries. The whole Griff defense, led by the talented Terry Mixon, played magnificently.
The Rams may have wanted this game too badly. The defense played as well as you could ask for, but six turnovers, two of them at the goal line, were too much to overcome. The Rams were held to under 150 yards of total offense. Woods was over 50% on his passes (7/13, 78 yards), but the three interceptions were drive killers. With only this one blemish on their record, the Rams are not out of playoff consideration yet. In fact, a disappointed Victor Valley team yelled in the direction of the Griffins that they would see them later... when it counted. Officials kept the teams from shaking hands after the contest because of the high emotions running on both sides. That return match is a possibility, but Victor Valley still needs to get past a scrappy Mt San Jacinto team to ensure a berth. The difference in this game seemed to be the experience factor. Grossmont has been in many big games in the past few years, while this was the biggest game of Victor Valley's existence. They lost a close game, but can chalk up the experience as one more step into the arena of elite teams. Coach Hoover has them on the right track, but they feel like they have much more to prove. If they win out, they'll probably get that chance.
Warren - 9 yard run - 5:27- 7-0
Team Safety - Grossmont - 7:07 - 9-0
Woods 23 yd pass to Barthelemy - 12:29 - 9-7
Warren 42 yard run - 2:03 - 16-7