May 27, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Nick Wilde steps up to lead Sunny Hills past Fullerton in OT

Sunny Hills players celebrate after Friday’s overtime victory. (Photos courtesy Jim McCormack, For OC Sports Zone)

For much of the season Nick Wilde could be regarded as “the other guy” for the Sunny Hills football team.

But, Friday night, with leading rusher (David Mahood, hip flexor) and leading receiver (Dylan Lawson, ankle) sidelined much of the evening, Wilde became “the guy” as Sunny Hills survived a stiff challenge from Fullerton to win 21-20 in overtime.

It was Wilde who scored Sunny Hills’ overtime touchdown on a 2-yard run, and it was Wilde who batted down a Fullerton conversion pass when the Indians went for the win after scoring a TD of their own.

“It was just instinct,” Wilde said of his game-winning play.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo:

With quarterback Christopher Castillo rolling to his right, and two Fullerton receivers running a crossing pattern in the end zone for a second it looked like the play would be successful, but Wilde got to the target in time and knocked the ball away.

“I had the inside guy, who ran an outside arrow pattern,” Wilde said. “I just chased him, saw the ball, put my hand out and knocked down the ball.”

Fullerton won the overtime toss and chose defense. Sunny Hills drove for a score, Wilde reaching the end zone from two yards out. Mathias Brown added the PAT, which turned out to be the winning point.

Fullerton responded by scoring a TD of its own, senior Ryan Knight, running behind his massive offensive line of seniors Vincent Noregia (6-foot-5, 315), Lawrence Pacheco (6-3, 335), Franklin Honrado (5-10, 220) and Levi Banuelos (6-2, 285), bulldozing in from the two. It was Knight’s third score of the night.

It was at that point Fullerton, a significant underdog, chose to go for two, a decision both coaches agreed was the correct one.

“They’re a great team,” Tribe coach Richard Salazar said of Sunny Hills, “and against teams like that you’ve got to take your chances. You’ve got to let your kids play, that you have confidence in them. You expect them to make the play. Unfortunately we weren’t successful.”

With Sunny Hills (7-3, 4-1 Freeway League) already in the playoffs and Fullerton (2-8, 1-4) playing its last game of the season, the conversion decision made perfect sense.

“Under the same circumstances, I would have done the same thing,” said Sunny Hills Coach Pete Karavedas.

Friday’s game was for Fullerton City bragging rights. It is part of a mini-tournament featuring Sunny Hills, Fullerton and Troy. Friday’s win gave Sunny Hills bragging rights for the fourth consecutive year, but it wasn’t easy. The Lancers beat Troy by two points, surviving a wild final minute with Mahood’s interception securing a 22-20 victory. Friday night it was Wilde’s pass break up that clinched the win.

Sunny Hills scored first, in the second quarter, when Lawson broke several tackles while turning a short pass from quarterback Max Spero into a 46-yard scoring effort. Fullerton countered with a productive drive that resulted in Knight’s first score, on a 32-yard run.

Tied 7-7 at halftime, Sunny Hills dominated the third quarter, stopping Fullerton on it’s first drive and methodically plowing down the field for a score on TJ Viapae’s 7-yrd run.

The Lancers then forced Fullerton to put again and put together a similar drive that took the teams into the fourth quarter. Wilde had a nice run to the goal line and Sunny Hills appeared on the verge of putting the game away.

Unfortnately, for the Lancers, the run was nullified by a holding penalty and an ensuing field goal attempt was wide to the right.

Buoyed by the opportunity, Fullerton, behind quarterback Christopher Castillo, who ran for a first down on 4th-and-7 and completed a long pass, and the running of Knight, scored a tying TD on Knight’s 5-yard run with 4:27 remaining.

That set up the overtime dramatics.

Karavedas said he was proud of his players’ heart, not so much by their mistakes.

“I’m proud of our kids for being resilient, for getting it done, that our seniors can walk out of here having never lost to Fullerton, having never lost to Troy, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, that’s pretty clear,” Karavedas said.

To see earlier story, click here.

Story courtesy Jim McCormack for OC Sports Zone