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El Toro comeback comes up a yard short against Vista Murrieta

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

MURRIETA – Despite trailing Vista Murrieta by 18 points in the fourth quarter on Friday night, the El Toro football team had the game within its grasp with just over one minute remaining.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the momentum — and the football — fell to the turf.

An El Toro fumble on the Broncos’ 1-yard line was recovered by Dwayne Johnson, preserving Vista Murrieta’s 31-23 victory over the visiting Chargers in the opening round of the CIF-SS West Valley Division football playoffs.

“It was a goal-line stop, and we call it a Bronco stop,” said Johnson after his team improved to 10-1 and earned a place in the quarterfinals next Friday night at Upland. “It was a bad handoff right off the bat. It hit the running back’s leg, and I just came in and dove in and got the ball.”

El Toro (5-6) nearly pulled off an improbable comeback thanks to a stingy defense and some timely offense.

“We played Charger football in the second half,” said El Toro coach Mike Mayoral. “We played gritty and we played hard. We did a good job.”

The Chargers looked anything like a No. 15 seed.

“When we looked at the films on Sunday, we knew this was a very tough draw,” said Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele, whose teams have reached six consecutive section finals. “It’s playoff time, and if you’re not ready to play, and you’re not ready to go, you’re going to find yourself at home.”

The Broncos had to find their way without starting quarterback Karson Greeley, who sprained an ankle in the first half.

Senior receiver Kyle Williams stepped in at quarterback and scored on a 14-yard run in the second quarter and a 2-yard run in the third.

But the Chargers held the high-scoring Broncos to just seven points in the second half.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we fought hard as a team, and we’ve got a lot to work on next week,” Williams said.

The Chargers scored 10 fourth-quarter points, including a 24-yard touchdown pass from Dawit Wilson to JShoun Wolfe, to pull within eight.

A 36-yard punt return by River Simmons placed El Toro at the Broncos’ 14 with just over two minutes remaining.

Three plays later, everything slipped away.

El Toro outgained Vista Murrieta by more than 50 yards in the first half, but the Broncos took a 24-13 lead at intermission thanks to a couple of big returns.

Freshman lineman Keyon Ware-Hudson scooped up a fumble and returned it 25 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, giving Vista Murrieta a 7-0 lead.

Following a Chargers field goal, Khalil Shakir returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 14-3.

Cobbins took a screen pass 57 yards for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 17-10 late in the first quarter.


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