The Nighthawks Magical, Historic Season Comes to an End
Third time was a charm for San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz and his Tritons. San Clemente won the CIF Southern Section Division Championship with a 45-35 victory over Murrieta Valley Friday night. The Tritons made their third straight appearance in a Section Divisional Championship and finally went home with the Trophy.
Murrieta Valley had a magical, historic season. The Nighthawks finished the year with an 11-3 record, displaced Vista Murrieta as the long time Southwestern League Champions, and had the best record in the school’s 26 year history. They were just one victory away from perfection.
“Obviously this stings a bit” said Murrieta Valley O Line Coach Andre Smith. “We came up short against a good program that wanted it a bit more than we did tonight. We kept battling…but just a few miscues early in the game made the difference. Eventually, we’ll look back at the season and be very pleased with all the accomplishments.”
The explosive Murrieta Valley offense was held in check for the first quarter. The Tritons struck first with a 21-yard field goal by junior Tristan Trager. USC bound quarterback Jack Sears made it 10-0 with a short TD pass to junior Chris Kane.
The Nighthawks finally put some numbers on the board on senior Lika Palmer’s 22 yard run early in the second quarter. The Tritons bounced right back, drove downfield and scored on senior Brandon Reaves’ first of three touchdowns of the game, a 1-yard run making it 17-7.
Sophomore quarterback Hank Bachmeier then connected with his favorite receiver, junior Marquis Spiker for a 58 yard touchdown strike to make it 17-14 at the half.
Reaves scored his second touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run and the Tritons went ahead 24-14 in the third quarter. Murrieta Valley answered with a 55 yard TD pass from Bachmeier to Spiker and the Nighthawks trailed by a field goal. The Tritons went up by 10 points early in the final quarter when they marched down field and Sears took it in for a 3-yard keeper. 31-21
Spiker and Bachmeier hooked up for the third time, this time for a 57 yard touchdown to bring the Nighthawks within 3. Murrieta Valley attempted an on-side kick after the score but the ball was recovered by San Clemente. The Tritons took full advantage of the excellent field position and Reaves scored his third touchdown of the game, this time on a 3-yard pass from Sears.
The Nighthawks snapped right back, pulling to within a field goal once again when Palmer scored on a 5-yard run to make it 38-35. Once again, with six minutes left to play, Murrieta Valley attempted another short kick. The Triton took possession on their own 34 yard line and Sears put the game away on the next play with a 66 yard touchdown run,
Sears ended the game with 178 yards on 16 carries. He completed 19 of 23 passe for 228 yards. Junior Austin Whitsett carried the ball 19 times and gained 100 yards. Reaves had 67 total yards. Senior Issac Rex led the Tritons with 7 catches for 73 yards.
For Murrieta Valley, Bachmeier completed 12 of 20 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns Spiker caught all three of the Nighthawk TDs and ended up with nine receptions for 253 yards. Senior wide receiver Palmer ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
The Nighthawks are young, talented, well coached and looking to be back in the thick of things again next season. Great job Nighthawks!
For more pictures of Murrieta Valley’s remarkable season CLICK HERE.
Photos by Mike Clary