Raiders secure playoff spot with win over Indians
By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
The Raiders’ offense got off to a slow start, at home against the Indians, but pulled away in the second half for a 35-20 victory and a berth into CIF.
The Fullerton Indians came in fighting for their playoff lives and riding an emotional high after the loss of coach Takkinen.
“We knew that they were going to come out hyped up, emotional, ready to play hard, and we knew that we had to come out more emotional than they did and fight them,” Sonora’ Dakota Eckheart said.
The Raiders’ offense struggled to get started, but the defense played tough and physical, allowing the Raiders enough time to gain traction.
“We got physical, we made some key hits out there, head coach Paul Chiotti said, “Our kids always play great in the second half.”
Sonora held the Indians in their first drive, but fumbled the ball on the first play. The Indians regained possession and capitalized with a field goal.
Again the Raiders went three and out on their next possession and punted the possession after that.
After the Indians added a second field goal, extending their lead to six, the Raider offense showed a glimmer of hope.
“It was important for us to kind of hold our ground early, when they’re playing with the emotion,” Chiotti said.
“It was honestly really big for us, it kept us in the game, kept our mentality and it kept our positivity up,” Cole McDonald said.
The Raiders’ passing attack started to work, connecting on two straight passes to Landon Williams.
The Raiders marched down the field and put an exclamation point on the drive with a three yard run by Jacob Fimbres.
Trailing 7-6, the Indians were able to regain the lead on a 37 yard scramble by Jordan Lawton for a touchdown.
The play was a designed pass, but as Lawton looked for open receivers, he found a lane downfield, then danced around tacklers all the way to the end zone.
The Raiders kept the pressure on with a touchdown before the end of the half. McDonald dropped a dime to Steven Riley who made a one handed grab in the back left corner of the end zone.
“That touchdown before the half really settled us down,” Chiotti said.
With a 14-13 lead coming out of halftime, the Raiders received the ball to start the second half, where their momentum started to translate to points.
“Once we get started, you can’t stop us,” McDonald said.
The Raiders were able to balance their rushing efforts between Fimbres and McDonald, scoring on a three yard run to give them a 21-13 lead, then a nine yard run by McDonald for a 28-13 lead.
“With that lead, I think we just wanted to make sure that we took a comfort lead,” Riley said.
Fimbres and McDonald combined for more than 250 yards on the ground, and McDonald added 150 through the air.
“Jake has just been a workhorse for us all year, but then we talk about being dynamic and Cole brings that at the quarterback position, whether he is running or throwing,” Chiotti said.
As the Indians drove closer to the end zone, the Raiders got a break as the ball came loose on a snap. The Raiders fell on the ball ending the Indians’ scoring chance.
From there the Raiders drove down, and capped the drive off with a 30 yard touchdown run to give the Raiders a 35-13 lead.
With a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, some of the reserves got a chance to shine.
“It was really fun, I kept telling the coach, ‘I’m going to go get a sack, I’m going to go get a sack,’ so he put me in there, and I had a good move, I just didn’t get there in time,” Riley said.
The Indians scored a passing touchdown but the Raiders secured a victory winning 35-20.
“We’ve been waiting for these kids the last couple of years, to kind of grow up and mature. We knew they were going to be special as Seniors, and I’m just happy for the kids, as they’re able to showcase their hard work,” Chiotti said.
The Raiders win secures a berth into CIF.
“That was one of our key goals, I’m just happy for these kids to reach one of their key goals that they set at the beginning of the year,” Chiotti said.
“This has been brewing for a whole year, that we lost to them last year and didn’t get into CIF, so to come back and beat them and clinch our CIF berth, it’s huge,” Eckheart said.
The Raiders will travel to Buena Park in a battle for second place. Both teams have 3-1 records and have secured a spot in the CIF playoffs.