Amazing season falls just one win short for Nighthawks

A season in which they went undefeated in league play, compiled an 8-2 regular season record and advanced to the CIF football championship...

A season in which they went undefeated in league play, compiled an 8-2 regular season record and advanced to the CIF football championship game for the first time ended one win short of a title for the Murrieta Valley Nighthawks Friday night.

Engaged in a wild, back-and-forth scoring battle with San Clemente High, the Nighthawks lost a 45-35 decision before a large crowd at Murrieta Valley. The CIF title was the first for San Clemente, which lost in the CIF Division 2 finals the last two years.

Murrieta Valley never led and trailed by as much as 10 points, but continued to stay in the game behind the offense of quarterback Hank Bachmeier, running back Lika Palmer and wide receiver Marquis Spiker. Bachmeier passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns -- all to Spiker. In addition, Palmer rushed for 220 yards and two TDs.

The Nighthawks appeared to be building momentum in the closing minutes of the first half when Bachmeier hit Spiker with a 63-yard touchdown bomb, cutting the San Clemente lead to 17-14. Then, with the visiting Tritons threatening to score in the closing seconds, Nighthawks defensive back Tanner Hoyt stripped the ball from wide receiver Keith Jones after a pass reception and Murrieta recovered the fumble.

Murrieta Valley had the ball first in the second half and was driving at midfield when Bachmeier was hit and tried to hand the ball off to Palmer as he was going down. The ball popped loose and San Clemente recovered the fumble, quickly leading to a 3-yard touchdown run by Brandon Reaves and a 24-14 lead.

San Clemente kept the ball away from Murrieta Valley long enough to negate the Nighthawks' powerful offense, which came into the game averaging 47 points per game on the season and more than 60 per game in the playoffs. The Tritons had the ball for 32:08 of the 48-minute contest.

Tritons quarterback Jack Sears, who is committed to USC, passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Reaves rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass. Murrieta Valley actually outgained San Clemente in total offense, 551-547.

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