June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: No. 2-seeded Irvine upset by Jurupa Hills in CIF Division 8 playoff opener

Irvine’s Sina Saferzadeh gains yards Friday night vs. Jurupa Hills. (Photos courtesy Jim Tomlin, For OC Sports Zone).

Irvine High School’s football team came into Friday’s night’s CIF Division 8 football opener with plenty of enthusiasm and hope as the No. 2 seeded team.

But Jurupa Hills dashed those hopes early and went on to stun the Vaqueros 28-6 at Irvine Stadium. Jurupa Hills came into the game 4-6 overall but a tough schedule including battles in the rugged Sunkist League, prepared the squad for the playoff opener. Jurupa Hills used its quickness and strength on the lines to dominate the game.

Two of the Spartans’ non-league losses were to Etiwanda and Downey.

Irvine Coach Tom Ricci held an emotional traditional ceremony with his seniors after the game, some who were in tears after the upset loss.

The Vaqueros (7-4) were the Pacific Hills League champions, going undefeated and captured the Dennis Toohey Fence Post Trophy.

“I felt like our kids played tough, they’re a physical football team, we knew it was going to be a physical game,” Ricci said after the game. “We threw everything we had at them and they had a great game plan against us.

“Their line was really physical, I got to hand it to them, they did a great job, our kids never gave up they played hard the whole game. We get ready to rock next year.”

The Spartans set the tone of the game when junior Derrick Pittman ran 66 yards for a TD on their first drive.

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

Irvine (7-4) answered in the second quarter when running back Brandon Figueroa took a flip from quarterback Sina Saferzadeh and connected with Deacon Moss on a 49-yard TD pass. The Vaqueros missed the extra point, so trailed 7-6.

Jurupa Hills answered with two more scores in the third quarter. Jaylen Ephraim hauled in a 21-yard TD pass from QB Caleb Ruiz and then Eric Moreno took a flip from Ephraim after a big pass reception near midfield and raced 50 yards into the end zone to make it 21-6.

“I’m going to tell you right now I did not call that, I can’t take credit for it, that’s the kids having fun,” said Jurupa Hills Coach Cito Marinez. “Our kids have great chemistry. Caleb (Ruiz) threw it to Jaylen and Jaylen just kind of took matters into his own hands and decided to lateral it to zero (Moreno).”

Jordan Perrillo added an 80-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Spartans.

“Irvine is such a well coached team, they stayed in the football game in the first half with their trick play and got the ball to their best player, wide open, that’s on us, can’t leave that kid wide open, the Moss kid is really, really good,” Marinez said. “But in the second half, I think our first stop on their first possession was big, even though we didn’t score on that, it kind of set the tone for the second half.

“They had the bad punt and we got the ball, but we were able to basically play the second half on our side of the field and put some points on the board and the explosiveness of our offense.”

Irvine’s offense was led by Figueroa, who rushed for 72 yards on 14 carries and Moss, who had five catches for 112 yards. Joe Lynch had three catches for 29 yards. Saferzadeh, a sophomore who came on as a starter when Khoa Bui was injured earlier in the season, passed for 109 yards but Jurupa Hills defense had two interceptions, both in the red zone.

Irvine drove to the Jurupa Hills 9-yard line on its first drive but an interception by Damien Ortiz ended the drive.

“Sina is still learning, I thought he made some great plays and then there were some plays where he definitely needs to improve on,” Ricci said. “We got a lot of time with him.”

Ruiz, the Jurupa Hills QB, passed for 132 yards and a TD.

Ricci said the Vaqueros had a lot to be proud of.

“We did everything we set out to do,” Ricci said. “We told ourselves we were going to be 8-2, 7-3-ish, Fence Post winners, league champs, that was our goal. We wanted to get to CIF and I feel we accomplished those goals and our next set of goals was to win CIF and unfortunately, we fell a little short.”

Jurupa Hills moves on to the second round to host Aliso Niguel Friday.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com