SACRAMENTO — Behind a stellar, hard-hitting team-wide defense that produced four turnovers and a second-half shutout, Ponderosa opened Delta River League play Saturday with a 17-3 victory over host Jesuit.
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The Bruins’ first-ever Division I conference victory was an emotional one.
“I doubt anyone outside of our locker room thought we’d win a league game this year but this team shrugged off past losses, the negative press and played hard for each other,” Ponderosa coach Jason Tenner said. “As coaches they made us very proud.”
Senior linebacker Jeff Camilli was the Bruins’ man in the middle all afternoon. His interception of Marauder quarterback Thomas Sperbeck led to a game-tying 36-yard field goal from Curtis Goldsmith early in the third quarter.
“I’m a big guy so I don’t know how he didn’t see me,” said Camilli who also batted down four passes. “He’s one of the best players in the section so we were able to shut down their bread and butter. Words can’t decribe how this (first league win) feels. Coach Tenner — he and I have been through it.”
The Bruins won the turnover battle. Aside from Camilli’s pick, Jake McClelland and Darren Brundage forced a fumble that Christian Canepa recovered; Jeff Martin’s strip led to a loose ball that Aaron Jestice pounced on; and late in the first half, Aaron Roberds intercepted Sperbeck seconds before the horn.
“Anytime you can protect the ball and create turnovers you get an opportunity and we took advantage,” Tenner said.
Ponderosa’s front four brought the pressure. The Bruins lost Curtis Catron early to injury but received a boost from tight end Ralph Raetz who pulled double duty — joining Jestice, McClelland, Kyle Marshall and later Giovanni Anastasio to make life miserable for Sperbeck.
“We gave them different looks and mixed it up … a complete team defensive effort,” Tenner said. “Our schedule (early) gave guys a chance to play so they’re ready when called and made plays.”
Offensively, The Bruins started moving in the second half. With the score at 3-3, Matt McBride’s punt return put Ponderosa in the red zone andt after a penalty, Canepa’s 21-yard reception of Jake Bist’s pass eventually led to Canepa following Camilli’s lead block to score from 1 yard out.
Canepa’s fumble recovery and his running (15 carries, 94 yards) keyed a nine play, 60-yard drive. McClelland rumbled 16 yards on one carry and Bist connected with Raetz for another 16 down to the Marauder 10 where Camilli lowered the shoulder inside the 5 and broke the plane.
“We had a surge in the second half and played with a lot of energy and better rhythm,” Canepa said. “We had blocking and cut down on the penalties.”
Jesuit had a first quarter fumble recovery and interception late in the game that pinned the Marauders at their own 1-yard line.