BY JOHN MURPHY
It went down to the last play.
Citrus Valley and Beaumont high schools dueled in a back-and-forth Citrus Belt League game on Saturday, April 10.
Beaumont ran out of time as a last-chance heave from midfield by Beaumont quarterback Michael Cruz was knocked down by Jelani McLaughlin near the end zone as time expired, giving Citrus Valley a 38-36 victory.
“That was fun,” Citrus Valley coach Kurt Bruich said. “Spring football
is what it is, but that was fun.”
In other league games, Cajon defeated Redlands 42-13 and Yucaipa downed Redlands East Valley 31-0.
The Citrus Valley victory sets up a rematch with three-time defending league champion Cajon on Saturday, April 17 at Citrus Valley.
Cajon edged the Blackhawks for the 2019 CBL title with a 26-20 victory at Cajon.
Cajon has won 22 consecutive league games, dating back to a 38-32 loss to Bruich’s Redlands East Valley team on Oct. 28, 2016. That was former Cajon quarterback Jayden Daniels’ sophomore year.
He is now the starter at Arizona State.
A Cajon victory will give the Cowboys (4-0) an outright league title.
If Citrus Valley (3-1) wins, it will tie Cajon for the top spot.
As for Beaumont (2-2), it is climbing ever closer to the cream of the area’s oldest and one of its best leagues.
“If we look at the body of work over the first three years and where we are now, the big thing is that your players feel like they have a chance to win every game,” Beaumont coach Jeff Steinberg said. “I don’t think in the last couple of years we’ve gone out and felt like we were intimidated. It’s just a matter of continuing to develop and getting to where some of these programs have been for a while.”
Citrus Valley quarterback Dylan Wheatley completed 18 of 32 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns against Beaumont.
Three of those TD passes were to fellow senior Ty’Jhon Belton who caught seven passes for 94 yards.
“When I transferred here, (Belton) was here,” Wheatley said. “We’ve kind of built a connection.”
“He’s a good quarterback,” Belton said. “His reads are on point. That’s my dog.”
The third of Wheatley’s scoring tosses to Belton covered 12 yards with 3:18 left in the first half and increased Citrus Valley’s lead to 26-15. But Beaumont responded with a 3-yard TD run by sophomore running back Armando Cuellar who ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cougars took a 29-26 lead on their first drive after the break on a 24-yard scoring pass from Cruz to David Williams. But Beaumont got a bad break with 7:00 left in the third quarter when two defensive backs ran into each other and Sergio Cervantes (three catches for 120 yards) caught an 80-yard pass from Wheatley to put Citrus Valley ahead 32-29.
“We hold them in check, and we get them in a third-and-long and a fourth-and-long and then they get a big play or a big first down and that’s just kind of hard,” Steinberg said.
Citrus Valley ran well throughout and Claiborne (113 yards, two TDs) made it 38-29 Citrus Valley with 9:26 left in the game on a 6-yard scoring run.
But Beaumont had one last hurrah before its final heave with 8:02 left when Cruz scored on a 17-yard run to bring the Cougars to within two.
Bruich was impressed with Beaumont.
“Steinberg has them playing hard,” he said. “Their kids play with tremendous effort. Their quarterback is slippery, and their defense does some things schematically. They play hard, man.”
Citrus Valley’s array of playmakers was difficult for Beaumont to contain. One of them was 6-foot-4 sophomore receiver Brockton Lium who caught six passes for 118 yards.
Beaumont finishes its season at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 17 against visiting REV, Bruich’s old school.
BANNING FALLS TO CATHEDRAL CITY
The Banning High football team lost to Cathedral City 55-13 on Friday, April 9.
Erek Smith had a 65-yard touchdown run for the Broncos (0-2) and Lavar Jones added an 81-yard TD run.
Oshea Wallace passed for 200 yards and four touchdowns for Cathedral
City (3-1). Frank Valentino caught nine passes for 170 yards and three scores.
Banning (0-2) hosted Westminster La Quinta on Thursday, April 15.
John Murphy may be reached at email@example.com .