The La Jolla High School Vikings took the win-less Kearny High Komets too lightly in the final regular season game for both teams, giving a huge and loud Homecoming crowd in Gene Edwards Stadium a topsy-turvy tilt that totaled 15 touchdowns and saw La Jolla enter the CIF playoffs with an eventual 67-35 win Nov. 7.
Viking quarterback Collin Rugg added to his record touchdown and passing yardage totals, with six TD tosses to four different receivers. Favorite receiving targets Brandon Bonham and Carlton O’Neal augmented their record-book numbers as well, with Bonham snaring two scoring aerials and O’Neal, on a hurting ankle, grabbing nine passes for 96 yards and one touchdown.
The Vikings (finishing 2-2 in the Western League, 5-5 overall) open the CIF Division III playoffs Friday, Nov. 14, at Santa Fe Christian (3-1 in the Coastal League, 5-5 overall) at 7 p.m.
From the opening kickoff, when the high-bounding ball bounced off a La Jolla player and back into the hands of a Komet special teams coverage man, things started out a little discombobulated for the distracted red-and-black. A Viking defense that had seemingly solidified the previous two weeks with two outstanding games against Mission Bay and Madison repeatedly allowed Kearny receivers behind and through weak pass coverage. La Jolla made the Komets (finishing 0-4 in the Western League, 0-10 overall) look much better than they are.
Kearny scored five touchdowns in the finale of a season in which they had not scored more than a single touchdown in any game other than in a blowout loss to Mission Bay.
“Coach Carter had some choice words at halftime,” confided Bonham, who finished with four catches for 43 yards, upping his season total to 1109 yards, 1789 in his career, a La Jolla High record. His TD total is now 17 for the season, 25 in his career. “He told us he was going to run the (heck) out of us (if we lost).”
On what was also Senior Night, senior Grant Miller recorded a sack and multiple tackles on defense and a 24-yard reception on offense, the sack and catch both in the third quarter. “(Miller) is an ironman,” said an elated though frustrated Carter after the game. “He has done everything we have asked him to do. He’s just a team player. He works his butt off.”
Carter also handed out accolades to senior Berkeley Stobo, who Rugg completed three passes to in La Jolla’s first drive as he carved out a cameo role as a receiver and trick-play passer this season as Rugg’s back-up. “His new name is ‘Air Berkeley,’” said Carter, as Stobo was being interviewed postgame on the field. “He catches the ball in the air, he passes in the air...”
In early surprises, Kearny took its own misplayed opening kick and scored in the first minute and a half. Then, after Rugg drove the Vikings 80 yards in less than two minutes, with Reid Martin carrying the ball over from three yards out for the touchdown, the Komets went up 13-6 on a 63-yard pass play to Anfernee Hamilton. They had not led any opponent all season by that margin.
The Vikings let Kearny stay around until the third quarter. Their lead was 44-29 at halftime. Then the tongue-lashed Vikings piled up 23 unanswered points in the third quarter to build up a 67-29 lead, finally settling in to find their rhythm.
In La Jolla’s game plan, it wasn’t supposed to begin that way. Carter said before the game that the goal was to “play hard” to “get the guys in and get the guys out” early in the game. But the unexpected led to Carter having to stay with his regulars through three quarters. At halftime, a parade of class floats on this year’s Homecoming theme of “Superhero” delighted the large home crowd after the Viking Cheer Squad and new Viking Marching Band and Tall Flags performed on the field. Drum majors leading the band are Miguel Ochoa and Roan Wadsworth.
The Homecoming marked the last one that will be celebrated on the present turf, which, under a planned remodel beginning in Spring 2015, will be ripped up and replaced over the following 18 months with a new artificial playing surface. Junior Trenton Fudge, who had touchdown receptions of 3 and 53 yards in the first quarter, commented on it being his class’s last regular season home game on the present field, “It stinks (because all games in 2015 will played on the road due to construction). But this is a good way to go out.”
Defender Andrew Mitchell, a sophomore, said he looks forward to playing on the new field in Fall 2016 as a senior. “They said we might play the first blastoff on the new field,” said Mitchell, who once again was around the ball a lot on defense.
■ Passing: Collin Rugg 28-35, 309 yards
■ Rushing: (carries-yards): Reid Martin 16-116. Joe Vang 6-48. Jonathan Levenson 5-36. Collin Rugg 2-15. Brandon Bonham 1-7. Alex Dockery 1-5.
■ Receiving: (receptions-yards) Carlton O’Neal 9-96. Trenton Fudge 3-67. Brandon Bonham 4-43. Berkeley Stobo 5-42. Grant Miller 1-24. Jonathan Levenson 3-15. Chris Macy 2-12. Da’Jour Tims: 1-10