The Murrieta Valley Nighthawks played a gritty, physical second half Friday night to snatch victory out of the Eagles’ talons, defeating Eisenhower 35-27.
The Nighthawk defense adjusted and held Eisenhower to a single score in the second half. Ultimately however, it took the heroics of the Nighthawks’ special teams to give MVHS the win in round one of CIF Southern Section Ford Championships, Presented by Farmers, Football Playoffs.
In the fourth quarter with seven minutes left in the game, Eisenhower scored when Marquane Harris hit Jerrion Burton with a 24-yard touchdown pass, making the score 28-27.
Nighthawk Terin Solomon kept it that way. He blocked the extra point conversion that kept the Murrieta Valley lead at one point.
On the ensuing kick-off, the Nighthawks’ Damon Nolan took the ball at the Murrieta Valley five-yard line and zipped 95 yards past the Eisenhower defenders into the end zone, extending the Nighthawk lead to 35-27. Nolan has been a terror to opposing teams on kickoffs and punt returns all season.
Eisenhower was resolute. They would not crumble. On their final drive of the game, the Eagles drove the ball to the Nighthawk 15-yard line. With less than two minutes left on the clock Eisenhower failed to convert on a fourth and five and turned the ball over to Murrieta Valley. The Nighthawks ran the clock out and claimed their fist CIF Playoff victory since 2008.
The Nighthawks had difficulty stopping Eisenhower in the fist half.
Murrieta Valley Coach Greg Ireland was impressed by Eisenhower’s performance.
"They were very physical. One of the most physical teams we have faced this year," Ireland said.
The Eagles did "bring it" to Murrieta, matching them touchdown for touchdown in the first half that ended 21-21.
"They just pound you. They really outplayed us tonight, but fortunately our offense moved the ball as well,” Ireland said.
He had high praise for Eisenhower Coach Vinny Fazio.
"Eisenhower was well prepared, well coached and came ready to play," Ireland said.
Nighthawk quarterback Andrew Blake threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as he led the Murrieta Valley offense deeper into the CIF Playoffs. Wide receiver Aaron Paisley caught one of Blake’s TD tosses, a 10-yard reception.
Alex Montion, a wide receiver and field goal kicker was on the other end of Blake’s 33-yard TD pass later in the first quarter.
Senior running back Jacob Augustin kept key Nighthawk drives alive with timely runs often carrying Eagle defenders with him. In the third quarter, Augustin doggedly ran through the tough Eisenhower defense determined to stop the Nighthawks on fourth down and goal on the four-yard line. His touchdown gave the Hawks the lead that they would not relinquish.
The Nighthawks will host Corona Centennial next Friday night. The Huskies defeated the Grizzlies from Los Osos High School in round one playoffs, 47-21.