The Eagles Season Ends with the CIF Division 12 Southern Section Quarterfinals
By Lynn Guerin
Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 12 quarterfinal matchup between the South El Monte Eagles, coming in at 10-1,and the Rancho Christian Eagles at 8-3 had everything you would want to see, in a hold your breath, don’t blink, high school football playoff battle.
In fact it took nine lead changes or ties to give South El Monte the opportunity to advance to round three and send Rancho Christian home to pack up the gear till next season.
Rancho opened the scoring in the first quarter putting together an 80 yard drive culminating in an 19yard TD toss from senior captain QB Carter Treadway to Hunter Rapolla. Treadway ,for the evening threw 3 Touchdown passes and caught a fourth.
Midway through the second quarter, South El Monte was driving down the field again when Jaden Schieberl, from his safety position, stepped in front of the receiver, intercepted the Olmos pass and quickly demonstrated his skills as Rancho’s breakaway running threat, dashing 46 yards for the touchdown. Emma Baker kicked her second of five PAT’S for the night and Rancho Lead 14-7.
South El Monte came right back to tie the score at 14-14 when Daniel Olmos again scrambling on an intended pass play ,broke out of the pack and ran 44 yards straight up the field for the score. The half ended with both teams optimistic about second half prospects, and deadlocked at 14 apiece.
Rancho optimism took a quick jolt, on the second half kick-off. Sal Tovar ,one of the state’s best running backs, coming into the game with nearly 2,000 rushing yards, but held in check by the stout Rancho Defense in the first half, quickly solidified the hype. An electric 90 yard sprint for the touchdown, put South El Monte ahead 20-14. Ernesto Perez made the kick and the SEM Eagles led 21-14.
Rancho didn’t wait long to respond with solid rushing from Schieberl and Colton Bulger, mixed in with Treadway completions to Jo Jo Saatzer and Tyler Treadway. Carter Treadway found his outstanding tight end Paul Nichols, who made a nice grab for the 30 yard score. Emma “ Money” Baker again found the center of the uprights and Rancho was tied at 21-21.
Sensing a momentum shift, the Rancho defense on the next South El Monte drive brought the physicality, the outside contain and shut down the run to force a punt. Unfortunately the punt returned was fumbled and SEM had the ball and the momentum right back.
Sal Tovar from that point became the Eagles go to option, and a 36 yard touchdown run put South El Monte in the lead at 28-21.
Rancho’s offense and defense shifted to another gear from there to the end of the 3rd quarter. Carter Treadway again found Paul Nichols running quickly past linebackers down the middle, and hit him in stride for a 54 yard scoring strike. Baker made the PAT and Rancho again had tied the score, now 28-28.
Rancho’s defense stayed stout and determined forcing a turnover on downs, giving the ball back to Rancho Christian. .
Colton Bulger ripped off a tough 24 yard run. Schieberl and Treadway banged into the line for consecutive 6 yard gains taking the ball to the SEM 4 yard line. Rancho decided to go to the element of surprise with their next play. Carter Treadway tossed the ball short to Jo Jo Saatzer. Jo Jo pulled up short of the line of scrimmage ,and tossed the ball back to Carter Treadway who had snuck out to the corner of the end zone-touchdown Rancho. Emma Baker delivered her final high school PAT and Rancho now had the lead 28-21.
The fourth quarter was full of drama and big plays but unfortunately all the scoring came from South El Monte. Sal Tovar nearly took another kickoff all the way back-running 84 yards but forced out of bounds on the 6 yard line. No problem, 2 plays later Tovar running tough all night, picking up 140 yards from scrimmage and another 180 yards on kickoffs ,ran it in from the six and South El Monte had tied the score at 35-35.
Down the stretch ,with the season on the line, Rancho made uncharacteristic mistakes with poor execution, penalties, and turnovers. South El Monte took the lead for good when Daniel Olmos found AJ Carreon in the end zone for a pinpoint 24 yard strike and the lead at 42-35.
On a following drive, South El Monte stalled and attempted a 37 yard field goal that came up short. Rancho had the ball back and had a last chance to force overtime. Tyler Treadway hit brother Carter for a nice 16 yard out, and a first down. Jaden Schieberl,a thousand yard rusher for the second time ran for his final five of the season. With the ball at the 41 yard line, Treadway went back to pass and rifled a throw across the middle. The pass was intercepted and Rancho hopes for a dramatic comeback were dashed. South El Monte took the ball and the game as they ran out the clock.
South El Monte runs its record to 11 wins with 1 loss and moves onto face Santa Maria in the CIF quarter finals. Rancho Christian finishes its season with an overall 8 wins 4 loss record. Not exactly the numeric goals set for the season ,but Rancho and its Champions for Life program continues to teach fine young men and women the most meaningful lessons in sport and life.
That’s what makes high school football so entertaining and so meaningful.
Photos by Erin Baker