Walking away with a win in the Battle for the Helmet, Righetti defeated Pioneer Valley 45-13 at Warrior Stadium Friday.
“(The win) is everything we needed right now,” said Righetti head coach Ed Herrmann “We got it for the seniors, got a nice home win against a good, tough team, crosstown rival. We got the helmet back.”
Righetti reclaimed the helmet in the win after Pioneer Valley took it in last season's overtime win. The Warriors improved to 7-5 in the rivalry series with Pioneer Valley.
“It feels amazing,” Righetti quarterback Brandon Giddings said after winning the Battle for the Helmet. “I’m not a senior, but it feels good to get the win for the seniors.”
The Warriors (5-5, 2-2 PAC 5) came out strong against the Panthers (4-6, 1-3 LPL), giving Pioneer Valley a one-two punch with offense and defense. Righetti’s offensive charge was led by Giddings and senior running back Damien Robles.
“This year we set some goals, we worked hard and it all paid off,” Robles said.
The Warriors do have a chance at landing an at-large playoff bid in Division 8. The brackets will be released Sunday morning.
Righetti didn’t waste any time putting points up against the Panthers. Giddings stepped back in the pocket on the first play of their opening possession and connected with running back Dylan White for an 80-yard touchdown.
“I saw they were double-covering Jalen (Davis) so I figured the backside would be wide open,” Giddings said. “Dylan White was open, nobody was within 15 yards of him.”
Giddings' touchdown pass wasn’t the only 80-yard play from scrimmage that the Warriors had against the Panthers. Robles broke loose through a gap in the defense and didn’t look back, going 80 yards for a touchdown strike in the third quarter.
“I saw that open hole and I knew I was gone,” Robles said about his 80-yard run.
While the offense posted 37 points on the Panthers, the Warriors defense collected 8 points of its own. On Pioneer Valley’s second possession of the game, defensive back Jurrell Reed came with pressure on Panthers quarterback Mathew Garcia to force a fumble on the pass attempt.
“Coach (Shawn) Ramirez and coach Henderson, they really get our defense dialed in and do a great job game planning,” Herrmann said.
The Panthers recovered the fumble for a 15-yard loss and pushed up to their own end zone. Two plays later Garcia would feel Righetti’s defensive pressure again. Unable to find an open receiver from inside the end zone on third and long, Garcia would be called for intentional grounding after dumping the ball off to the sideline.
“We were playing really disciplined and it showed. We got pressure on (Pioneer Valley) early and that led to a safety,” Herrmann said.
The penalty from within the end zone resulted in a safety on the Panthers, giving Righetti a 9-0 lead in the midway through the opening quarter.
“It was a hard read for us. They have some good athletes on defense, especially (Caleb Thomas),” said Pioneer Valley head coach John Ruiz. “They came up with a good scheme and stopped us. My hat off to their coaching staff and players.”
Reed wasn’t finished with his defensive performance in the season finale. As the Panthers were pushing down field late in the fourth quarter, Reed intercepted Garcia’s pass and returned it for a pick-6.
The interception by Reed added to the two fumbles recovered by Righetti earlier in the game. After Robles’ score, Pioneer Valley would muff the kickoff with the fumble being recovered by Righetti's Elijah Burns. Burns recovery would turn into a 17-yard touchdown run two plays later by Isaiah Gayfield.
“Our special teams did great,” Herrmann said. “Even though it was late in the game, we had a high snap and converted on a 2-pointer and we got the kickoff fumble. All three phases were kicking and that was awesome.”
Righetti’s second fumble recovery also lead to a touchdown. Anthony Porcho would stripe Pioneer Valley’s Oscar Ruiz of the ball and the Warriors defense would come up with the ball from the pile. Back on offense, Derek Imel would score on a 2-yard run.
Kicker Edgar Zacarias would give Pioneer Valley its first points of the game, kicking a 32-yard field goal with two minutes left in the first quarter. The 32-yard try was Zacarias second field goal attempt, coming up short on a 54-yard field goal on the Panthers first possession. Zacarias finished 2-of-3 in field goal attempts, booting a 48-yard kick through the uprights in the second half.
Taking a 9-3 leading into the second, the Warriors would use the clock to their advantage. Righetti’s next drive lasted almost 8 minutes and included two big plays to keep the 80-yard drive alive.
Facing a third-and-15, Giddings found an open Isaiah Gayfield for a 31-yard pass to get the Warriors across the 50. Pioneer Valley looked to stop Righetti’s momentum and the drive on fourth-and-1 but the ball was put into the hands of running back Damien Robles who picked up 5 yards for another first down.
The drive was capped off with Giddings second score of the game, this time on a 5-yard quarterback keeper putting Righetti up 16-3 going into halftime. Giddings finished 3-of-5 passing for 112 yards, throwing an interception to Pioneer Valley’s Ivan Zepeda, and 32 yards on the ground.
The Panthers final score of the night come on a 2-yard run by Garcia midway through the final quarter. Garcia finished 13-of-25 passing for 127 yards and 1 interception while collecting 29 yards on the ground.
The Panthers finished fourth in the Los Padres League with a league record of 1-3 after falling to Santa Ynez in week 9 action.
“I’m very eager to get into the playoffs because I’m not ready for this to end,” Robles said about Righetti’s chances of making the postseason.
Finishing third in the PAC 5 League with a 2-2 record, the Warriors are awaiting the release of the CIF Southern Section playoff brackets on Sunday to see if they made the postseason.
“I think this team is ready,” Herrmann said.