Back-and-forth 36-33 win by Redlands East Valley over previously unbeaten Riverside Poly – combined with San Clemente loss – makes it more certain that team will head to CIF bowl.
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In a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the Cal-Hi Sports Division II South bowl game rankings, Redlands East Valley came up with the final big plays to turn back Poly of Riverside 36-33 in the CIF Southern Section Inland Division championship played Friday night at Ramona High in Riverside.
The Wildcats grabbed the lead with eight minutes left on a 35-yard touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Armando Herrera to Khris Vaughan. Just prior to that, Riverside Poly had the ball and was leading 31-29 when a bobbled pass was intercepted by REV’s Carter Flowers.
Both teams then traded punts, but Poly had a short field to navigate when it started its final drive from the REV 38-yard line with four minutes to go.
After converting on one fourth down play, the Bears tried a deep ball near the 10-yard line for playmaker Ykili Ross. He slipped and that was all senior Isaiah Armstrong needed to jump up and grab an interception for the Wildcats.
There was still 2:03 to play when Armstrong came up with that pick – his second of the game and 12th of the season – but Riverside Poly had no time outs left and on fourth down there was three seconds still showing on the clock.
REV head coach Kurt Bruich called time out and instructed his players to run back into the end zone for a safety but easily burn the three seconds. That accounted for the 36-33 final score.
“This is just a big weight off of our chest,” said Bruich about the school winning its first-ever CIFSS title. “We’ve been close so many times. Everything just broke our way tonight.”
Bruich’s father, Dick, one of the winningest coaches in state history at Fontana and Kaiser of Fontana, hugged his son after the game. Kurt Bruich also joined a select few who have ever played on a CIFSS championship team and then later was the head coach for one.
When Kurt played at Fontana, however, there was no possibility for playing any more games after the CIFSS finals. That’s different now, of course, with CIF regional and state bowl games.
And although the Cal-Hi Sports rankings projected that the winner of Friday’s Inland Division final – Riverside Poly came into it at 13-0 – was headed to the CIF Division II South bowl game, there were other teams that headed into Friday, such as San Clemente, that were higher in the MaxPreps’ computer rankings.
San Clemente was playing Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo in the CIFSS Southwest Division also on Friday, but that game was not over as REV fans were leaving the stadium. Once the Tritons had lost, that only increased the likelihood of the Wildcats getting a call on Sunday.
“We’re ready to go,” Bruich said emphatically after being asked about continuing to play. “If we can extend this season with this group, then we’re all set to do it. They have two teams to pick, right? We feel good about it.”
Herrera led the Wildcats by completing 25 of 37 passes for 301 yards and three TDs. Not bad for a player who according to Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise could not lift his arm above his shoulder a few days ago due to a separated shoulder injury.
Oregon-bound Malik Lovette also had a big game for REV with two touchdown runs and a TD catch.
For Poly, which was trying to win its first CIFSS title since 1984 when it not only won the section’s top division but also was the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year, Devauntre Hale shined with 168 rushing yards and three TDs, but the Bears were hurt by mistakes. There were two other interceptions besides that last one by Armstrong and there also was a bad snap over the head of the punter that led to a two-yard scoring drive for REV.