By Gary Montgomery
Poly 36 San Gorgonio 33
Friday’s CIF Championship game between Riverside Poly and Redlands East Valley (REV) had all of the elements a High School football game could possibly have to offer. Hard hitting, great tackling, creative offense, tough defensives and of course, great coaching.
Redlands is an Inland Valley football constant, over the years producing a continuous supply of Division I college players and several current NFL players. Not to mention a head coach whose last name resonates throughout the local football world and has been associated with championships for the past 30 years.
Redlands East Valley head coach Kurt Bruich is the son of Inland Empire coaching legend Dick Bruich. Now retired, Bruich’s father coached the Fontana Steelers to a national champion, 2 CIF titles, 9 semi-final appearances, Citrus Belt titles and 22 straight playoff appearances. After that Bruich became the first coach at Kaiser High School and won another State Championship, 2 more CIF Championships and a host of league titles.
Although the younger Bruich’s Redlands East Valley (13-1) team had not brought home a title yet, they are one of the most consistent programs in the Inland Empire. When it comes to championship pedigree Redlands certainly has few equals.
The Riverside Poly Football team on the other hasn’t seen post season success in 3 decades. The Bears (13-1) have exorcised those 30 years of futility in a single season arriving at Friday’s CIF Championship game sporting an undefeated regular season record and 3 grueling playoff wins.
The two teams could not be more different and in the end that may have been the one factor that provided the tiny advantage REV needed to take home its first CIF championship title.
The two teams battled through a hard hitting first half with REV eeking out a slight 22-17 advantage at halftime only to see the Bears come out in the third quarter and seize the lead at 29-31.
“We knew they were a good team and coach told us this wouldn’t be easy. So, we just kept our belief and knew we would win,” said REV’s senior receiver Malik Lovette.
After taking the lead on a near perfect drive, the Poly Bears Benjamin Tualega picked off REV’s sophomore quarterback Armando Herrera inside the 25-yard line and putting the Bears in position to widen its advantage by two scores. Poly failed to get in the end zone on the possession and missed a short field goal to come away with nothing and allowing REV to dodge an enormous build.
“We just didn’t execute. We made too many mistakes and you can’t make that many mistake and win a championship football game,” said Poly’s head coach Dennis Brown.
The Wildcat’s took full advantage of the opportunity, scoring their final touchdown on a sideline pass from Herrera to Khris Vaughn to extend their lead to 36-31 with a little less than 6 minutes left in the game.
The Bears final attempt ended when Chandler Draschlin’s pass to Yakili Ross was picked off Carter Flowers giving the ball back to REV. Malik Lovette, ran out the clock from the wildcat position, ducking into the end zone for an intentional safety to prevent a blocked kick and making the final score 36-33.
Poly’s senior running back Devontrae Hale rushed for 168-yards and 3 touchdowns on a painful high ankle sprain. Senior receiver Yakili Ross had four catches for 94-yards a 1 touchdown.