June 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: ‘Season was special for us,’ Sonora coach says after loss in CIF quarterfinals

Sonora’s Anthony Abad tries to pull away from Vista del Lago defenders. (Photos courtesy Jim McCormack, For OC Sports Zone).

Sonora’s young football players learned the sad reality Thursday night that not all storybook seasons have a happy ending.

The Raiders played a fast, physical Vista del Lago team on even terms through the first half before yielding two third-quarter touchdowns that were the difference in the 21-7 Ravens victory in a CIF Division 9 quarterfinal playoff game at La Habra High School.

Although they operate different offenses, both schools have similar offensive philosophies … run the ball … a lot … and then throw the surprise pass.

That approach netted each club a second-quarter TD and a halftime 7-7 tie.

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

The second half was a different matter. The Ravens scored twice, converting several third-down plays in the process while their defense did a thorough job of neutralizing a Sonora attack that had been limited to two touchdowns only once in its 2023 breakout season.

Vista del Lago scored first a 14-yard pass from Larry Joyce to Jason Hicks.

Sonora responded with a classic Raider drive. The Raiders got the ball 8:37 and took 7:13 off the clock with a methodical ground attack of more than 10 plays before quarterback Landon Martin connected with Olin Morales Hyder 50 seconds before intermission to tie the score on a play that spanned 24 yards.

Vista del Lago’s speed dominated the second half, offensively when Joyce hit Hicks on a 70-yard pass-run play that set up a one-yard run by Fabian Bolanos.

On its next possession, Joyce hit Cameron Sims with a 19-yard pass for an insurmountable 21-7 lead.

Sonora’s attempts at successful responses were stymied by the Ravens’ aggressive pass rush and secondary coverage.

Martin often had to run for his life when the Raiders were forced to pass, and his receivers were well-covered down field.

The loss ended Sonora’s best season in years. The Raiders finished 9-3 with a win over Troy that gave them a share of the Freeway League title (with Troy and La Habra) and they collected their first CIF playoff win since 2015, a first-round, 35-34 overtime win at Rancho Mirage.

In postgame remarks to his team, Sonora Coach Kevin Oberlander asked his senior players to stand up and there were not a lot of players who could respond to his request. He then thanked them for their role in bringing the program back to respectability.

“The seniors are a small class … 10 kids,” Oberlander said, “but these seniors have really catapulted this program to a good place.

“This season was special for us and we want to keep the momentum going and I think we will. We have a lot of good kids returning.”

Seniors who played their final game for Sonora were Tyler Robertson (RB/OLB), Noah Carlos (FS/SS) Eddy Hernandez (RB/DB; out since Fullerton game with broken foot), Landon Martin (QB), Robert Hernandez (S/WR), Nicholas Fernandez (RB/CB), Gabriel Bagdonoff (LB), Steve Peru (RB), Wyatt Matchniff (OL/DL) and Joshua Isip (G/T).

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—Courtesy Jim McCormack, For OC Sports Zone