Thriller in Rancho: Vista Advances to Final With 5OT Win

Vista Murrieta High football coach Coley Candaele congratulates his players after their five-overtime win Friday night. Murrieta 24/7 p...

Vista Murrieta High football coach Coley Candaele congratulates his players after their five-overtime win Friday night.
Murrieta 24/7 photos by Aaron Rachman

By Aaron Rachman

In the end, Cole Dubots decided it was time to end things.

Handed the ball repeatedly during an exhausting overtime session, the junior running back pounded the ball into the end zone from 10 yards out in the fifth overtime round to give Vista Murrieta High School a 62-56 victory over Rancho Cucamonga Friday night in the CIF Southern Section West Valley Division semifinals.

"All I was thinking when I got the ball was, 'end it,' " Dubots said. "Five overtimes is a little too much. I was getting tired, and I had to end the game."

Through four overtime rounds of alternating possessions, the Broncos (12-1) and Cougars (9-4) remained tied, extending a score that was 35-35 at the end of regulation to 56-56. The host Cougars appeared poised to take the lead at the start of the fifth overtime round, moving the ball from the Vista 25-yard line to the 1-yard line on fourth down.

When it appeared the Cougars were going to go for the touchdown rather than kick a field goal, Vista coach Coley Candaele called time out to set the defense. When the ball was snapped, a Rancho running play was stopped by the Broncos' defense short of the goal line, keeping the score tied at 56-56.

"It was obvious they were going for it," said Candaele, who got the officials' attention in time to call time out before the ball was snapped. "The clock was down to 5 seconds. I wanted to see what formation they were in so I could get our defense correct."

That defensive stop set the stage for Dubots, whose heroics sent Vista Murrieta into next Friday's championship game against Mission Viejo. Last year the Broncos lost to Mission Viejo at Angels Stadium; this time they get the Diablos on Vista's home turf for a 7 p.m. game.

Mission Viejo advanced to the finals with a 56-21 win over Chino Hills.

Photo at right: Vista Murrieta's offense lines up for a play during its wild victory.

Vista Murrieta built a 28-10 lead in the first half, highlighted by the acrobatics of Kyle Williams. The senior returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, then returned a punt 81 yards for another score in the second quarter. Late in that period, Williams took a handoff from quarterback Karson Greeley, sprinted out and threw the ball back to Greeley for a 30-yard touchdown
and a 28-10 lead.

"Without those special teams plays and good defense, we might've lost the game," Williams said. "Then there was that trick play. We work on it in practice all the time.

"Special teams has really been a focus for us this year. That kickoff return ... the hole was wide, really big. Our blockers did a good job and I just took it all the way."

Things got really exciting in the fourth quarter. Rancho Cucamonga scored two touchdowns in less than four minutes -- the second one followed by a 2-point PAT -- to pull to within 35-32 with five minutes to play. Then, after forcing a Vista Murrieta punt, the Cougars sent the game to overtime with Joey Mendoza's 27-yard field goal in the final minute of regulation.

Each team scored a touchdown in the first round of overtime. A Vista field goal attempt in the second overtime round failed, but Rancho quarterback Angel Matute fumbled on the Cougars' first play of their possession and Vista recovered, extending the game. Each team scored in the third round, sending the teams back onto the field tied at 49-49 for the fourth overtime session.

Rancho scored first in the fourth OT, but Vista sent the game to the fifth and decisive overtime round when Greeley hit Khalil Shair with a touchdown pass.

Photo at left: Vista QB Karson Greeley warming up before the game.

"We got a little too casual in the fourth quarter," Candaele said. "It's good for our kids to deal with this and figure out how to win."

Beating top-seeded and undefeated Mission Viejo next week won't be easy, but one can certainly say Vista Murrieta has momentum on its side.

"We've worked really hard all season and I really think we've got this," said Dubots.

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