On a cool fall evening at Lefebvre Stadium, Placer welcomed in Center to settle the Pioneer Valley League title. Both teams arrived with perfect 4-0 league records and after falling behind 14-3, the Hillmen prevailed 15-14 to finish the regular season 10-0 and await their playoff division assignment.
Placer broke out first on a 12 play drive that netted just 36 yards, but resulted in a 30 yard field goal by Dominic Granieri. Center countered with a short field off a fumble and D'Juan Bellaire took it in from 2 yards out. The Cougars score again on their next possession, a 12 play 80 yard drive that ended with a 23 yard TD pass from Tyrel Anderson to David Tolentino with just over three minutes left in the half. After another turnover the Cougars were knocking on the door when they turned the ball over on downs from Placer's 16 yard line to end the half with a 14-3 lead. This game marked the first time in which the Hillmen trailed at halftime this season.
Placer took the second half kickoff and after a 56 yard drive capped by Issac Brahce on a 16 yard touchdown run made the score 14-9. The two teams exchanged possessions with a bend but don't break defensive strategy for the next quarter and a half until Placer began a drive from the 24 yard line. After 12 plays, Todd Valliere ran it in from four yards out with 3:38 left in the game to give the Hillmen the lead at 15-14.The Cougars started their last drive at the 35 yard line, due to Placer kicking out of bounds. They moved the ball down to the Hillmen's 23 yard line and on a fourth and three, Anderson slipped and fell on an option play to seal the victory for Placer.
The Cougars were paced by Bellaire, who finished with 147 yards on 22 carries. The slight built Bellaire proved to be elusive as well as a tough runner who rarely went down on first contact. The anchors on the offensive and defensive lines were juniors Spencer Bracy and Anthony Hall. Bracy showed good agility for a 300-pounder as well as the strength to handle the big defensive line of Placer. Hall did not play offense in the second half and the production fell off.
The Hillmen defense was spearheaded by USC commit Eddie Vanderdoes, who required double teams most of the night and forced four penalties for holding and chop blocks respectively. On the back end of the defense was Isaiah Pineiro, who came in with eight interceptions and added another on Friday. Pineiro also showed to be a reliable wide receiver that was the favorite target of Pete Denham.
Both of these teams will make the playoffs and will be a tough outs. Placer came in with the more impressive resume but the Cougars, who have only one loss this season against Chico in their first game, will be a hand full as they don't make mistakes and force teams to drive the length of the field. Placer is now 10-0, but lost the turnover battle 4-1 and had 2 personal fouls as well as a roughing the kicker penalty and still won. Placer head coach Joey Montoya said after the game "we kept shooting ourselves in the foot with mistakes but I'm so proud of the kids for their resolve to stick with it."
Both teams will find out today which division they will play in and their path through the playoffs. If Placer plays in Division IV, which signs are pointing to, they should be the top seed and be in line for a Division III regional bowl berth if it can add four more wins.