The Vanden High Vikings took full advantage of their strengths and the weather conditions as they put an end to the Kimball Jaguars’ season in a 29-6 thumping Friday night at the George A. Gammon Stadium in Fairfield.
The hosts came into this California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Sac Joaquin Section Division 4 playoff semifinal as the No. 1 seed, having lost just once all season. They were desperate to clinch their spot in next week’s championship game and justify their seeding and they did just that — in fine fashion.
The Vikings had allowed just nine points over their last three games coming into this one and their spectacular defensive group showed out again, suffocating the No. 4 Jags for the best part of the 48 minutes. Their game plan for Kimball bordered on perfection.
“The better team won today,” head coach Derek Graves told the Tracy Press in the aftermath. “The wind hurt us a lot. But they were still a really good team, no excuses.”
In spite of the visitors’ offense struggling mightily to get anything going — with or against the wind — the one time they did catch the Vikings out did come with star receiver, senior Travis Marieiro, on the end of the play. ‘
Shackled with double and triple teams all game, Marieiro managed to find some separation with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter to put a consolation touchdown on the board for the Jags. It was a small victory as the visitors did not want to get shutout in any losing scenario.
The 14-yard completion from senior quarterback Jayden McKey was just Marieiro’s fourth reception of the night. It was a tough catch in good coverage. Over the course of the night, it was evident that the hosts had done their homework.
“They did exactly what we expected them to do,” Graves said. “We couldn’t get our pass game going early on and they are better in person than they are on film. They executed well and they are a state championship team. We’re just going to keep getting better to get to that level.”
Usually very accurate, McKey could not get much going against the Vikings who threw a ton of different defensive schemes at him. He went 15-29 passing for 79 yards and was picked off three times.
Over a half of McKey’s completions went to Marieiro and junior receiver Darius Doyle, however none resulted in a ton of yardage. Marierio’s four catches amounted for 22 yards. Doyle put up 40 yards on seven receptions.
The Vanden defense was extremely disciplined and diligent. They gave up very few penalty yards and every single time the Jags had any sniff of tilting the pendulum their way, they got crucial stops to maintain their momentum.
“They were bracketing a lot, doubling and triple teaming with safeties coming over the top,” Marieiro said when looking back on the game. “With the wind and our run game not really being there, that just closed our offense up while their defense stepped up.
On the defeat, Marieiro added: “It was a hard loss to see our season end. But I thought our guys, we fought until the end. Whenever guys would put their head down, I tried to get them back up. This is a brotherhood until the end, from start to finish.”
The hosts got off to a perfect start, punching in two unanswered touchdowns inside the opening five minutes.
Running back Jordan Jones carved open the Jags’ defense at will throughout the night and he drew first blood with the clock at 10:19 in the first quarter with a 25-yard rushing score. He preceded that with a monster 40-yard carry to get the Vikings into great field position.
Vanden added insult to injury not long after when a total miscommunication amongst the Jags’ offense saw McKey throw a pass straight into the hands of Vikings’ Isaiah Lacy for the first pick of the night. The hosts quickly turned that turnover into six points through running back Elijah Fisherman who punched it in from the one yard line to make it 13-0.
The second quarter pictures showed more of the same. Vanden continued getting stops and were able to extend their lead on a quarterback keeper with Tre Dimes finding the end zone from 11-yards on a dive to make it 20-0.
Jones got the Vikings into the red zone on that drive with a sensational 61-yard carry. The hosts’ O-line did a tremendous job in creating gaps for Jones all night and the running back took advantage of them ruthlessly.
Over in the other backfield, the visitors could not get much joy through either of their backs. Senior Sebastian Tate celebrated cracking over 1000 rushing yards on the season last week but could only put together 32 yards on 10 carries in Fairfield and was brought down in his own end zone for a safety in the third quarter to make it 22-0 Vanden.
Junior back Jaden Ramirez chipped in with 31 yards on nine carries. The lack of success in the air allowed the Vikings to key in on the Jags’ carries with clinical precision.
The Kimball defense had a long night at the office but with moments — such as junior Dalton Anderson’s strip sack in the first quarter — that could have changed the game. Junior linebacker Dominik Moore led with nine tackles. Senior linebacker Zachary Macmartin had seven.
The Vikings’ dagger was delivered by none other than Jones who put the game on ice with a 38-yard carry with 1:25 left in the third to send the hosts into the championship game.
The Jags’ post-game huddle was filled with emotion as Graves addressed his squad one last time to end his first season in charge. Their journey came to an abrupt end with lofty aspirations being buried in the sand. However, back in September, nobody gave this team much of chance to make it as deep as the section semifinals.
After seeing off one of the most talented senior classes in school history last year, Graves, his staff and these players pulled another quality season out of the bag and they will look ahead to next year filled with optimism as a lot of key juniors will return to form a new core.
“Last year they graduated a great group of seniors and nobody thought we would make it this far,” Graves said. “I’m proud of all of these players. We overachieved. They put in the effort and they worked hard and they will be great young men one day.
“With everything I taught these guys this year, we will be in the weight room in January and we will make another run at this.”