July 13, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Big second half and tough defense lifts Godinez get past Saddleback in opener

Godinez running back Yahir Ramírez breaks free for a long run midway through the second quarter as Saddleback’s Elijah Rodríguez pursues. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Yahir Ramirez rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown and Kevin Contreras threw two TD passes to lead Godinez to a 29-8 non-league victory over Saddleback Friday night at Santa Ana Valley in the season opener for both teams.

Ramirez’s one-yard TD run and Contreras’ 30-yard touchdown pass to Jairo Guterrez in the fourth-quarter sealed the win for the Grizzlies.

“We’ve been working hard in the off season and all summer and it paid off tonight,” said Ramirez.

Contreras said he felt redemption after his second TD pass.

“I felt I let my team down after the fumble that led to their touchdown in the third quarter,” said Contreras. “So when I threw the second TD pass, I felt like we changed the tide of the game. It feels great to win a game like this after three years.”

To see the slide show, click on the photo:

After a jittery and scoreless opening quarter by both squads, Godinez’s offense got rolling midway through the second quarter.

On the strength of running backs Alexis Jimenez and Ramirez, the Grizzlies marched 77-yards in six-plays to take a 8-0 lead with 4:25 remaining in the half. Ramirez and Jimenez ripped off runs of 30 and 39 yards respectively to spark the drive.

Jimenez capped the scoring drive with a 3-yard TD run. Using a spread offense, the Grizzlies added a 2-point conversion on a pass play from Ian Martinez to Jose Bustamante.  

Moments later, following a Saddleback punt, Godinez was again on the move. This time, Contreras completed a 39-yard pass play to Ramirez for a first-down in Roadrunners’ territory. Four plays later, Contreras completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Juan Memije with 28 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Grizzlies a 15-0 lead at the break. 

Godinez’s defense led by Chris Villalobos, Valentin Mota and Alejandro Lopez played a huge factor in the Grizzlies win.

In the third quarter, Saddleback had an excellent scoring opportunity after moving the ball to the Godinez one-yard line. However, the Roadrunners’ defense stiffened.

“We had our backs against the wall when they were inside the 5-yard line, but our motto is ‘the ball is not in, until it’s in; we were motivated to keep them out of the end zone,” said Villalobos.

The Grizzlies took over but fumbled the ball away a few plays at their 3-yard line. This time the Roadrunners scored on a Joseph Torres’ 4-yard TD run with 35 seconds left in the third quarter, cutting the score to 15-8.

But Contreras responded quickly as he guided his team 51-yards in three plays, highlighted by a 30-yard TD pass to Guterrez to up the Grizzlies lead to 22-8 two plays into the fourth quarter.

Following an interception by defensive back Nathan Caceros, Contreras marched the Grizzlies five plays for a score to seal the victory, capped off by Ramirez’s one-yard TD run. Caceres added a second interception on Saddleback’s final drive to close out the win. 

“We changed the momentum of the game in the second half,” said Caceres.

Grizzlies coach Aron Kaye was pleased with his team’s performance.

“We ran the ball well and we played fantastic defense,” Kaye said. “The key for us was to hold onto the ball and sustain drives. In years past, we have been overmatched, but this season there is a feeling among the coaches and the players that we can compete.“

Roadrunners’ first-year coach Paige Nobles said he saw good efforts but things his team still needs to work on.

“We’re young, excited and a little nervous, but we were ready to go; we knew we would have growing pains and a lot of these kids were playing their first varsity game,” Nobles added. “I saw positive things and I saw some disappointment, but we’re still in the teaching phase and we’ll learn from this. We may have gotten a little overmatched late in the game.” 

Saddleback quarterback Adam Casteneda threw for 106 yards and rushed for 41 yards to lead the Roadrunners (0-1).

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone