FROM AUBURN JOURNAL
On opening night of the football season, most head coaches are trying to figure out who can play a role on the team. Placer coach Joey Montoya probably figures he can count on just about everyone to play at a high level, as the Hillmen built an early lead, subbed freely and ran away from Pleasant Grove 49-30 Friday night at LeFebvre Stadium.
With star right halfback Anthony Kerrigan nursing a sore leg and playing sparingly, Placer scored on five of its first six possessions on its way to compiling 475 yards of offense on 45 plays.
The Hillmen led 21-6 after the first period. Fullback Mario Perez scored on a three-yard run, quarterback Michael Stuck hit speedy wide out Travis Warren with a 68-yard bomb, and halfback Brad Bishop scored from four yards out.
“This was the ultimate team effort tonight,” Montoya said. “I thought our defense swarmed to the ball, and we showed we’ve got several running backs who can play. That’s a good, fast, big D-I team we played tonight, and we needed everyone to contribute.”
Bishop, who shared time with Marshall Chapman at left halfback, scored on Placer’s fifth possession, a 20-yard scamper around right end that gave the Hillmen a 28-14 lead just before the half.
“We have a ton of running backs that are so skilled, and with our offensive line, anyone can run behind them,” Bishop said. “Chapman was a beast tonight, and he was playing hurt. Everybody contributed.”
The Hillmen added another touchdown on their opening drive after intermission, capped by a 45-yard Stuck-to-Warren connection and a 35-14 lead. The pass was a thing of beauty as Stuck was patient in the pocket and then unloaded a spiral as Warren, who has exceptional speed, got behind two Eagle defenders. Tight end Louis Fudge also made a great fingertip catch on a 26-yard reception in the third quarter.
Placer’s line opened gaping holes for its various running backs and gave Stuck good protection all night. The junior signal caller threw only nine passes, connecting on five of them for 190 yards and the two touchdowns.
Pleasant Grove was forced to go to the air attack in the second half with its fine quarterback Dane Kaiser throwing four touchdown passes to keep the Eagles in the game. Kaiser completed 23 of 36 passes, accounting for 283 of the Eagles’ 354 total yards, but Placer’s harassing defense, led by linebacker Andrew Garza and his two sacks, kept the pressure on all night. Garza also recovered a loose ball and had a couple of nice runs filling in for Perez at fullback. Perez also had a sack on defense.
Placer allowed just 71 yards rushing on the night, bottling up running backs Tyler Williams and Justin Restani.
The Hillmen added rushing touchdowns by Chapman and Ryan Arnell, who entered the game in the final minutes after Perez rambled 46 yards to the Eagle 10. Montoya emptied his bench in the fourth quarter.
Perez led the Hillmen rushing committee with 103 yards on 10 carries, and Garza carried four times for 52 yards. Chapman carried eight times for 33 yards, including a 10-yard scoring dash that put Placer up 42-22 midway through the fourth period.
Kicker Ryan Meyer was a perfect seven-for-seven in extra point attempts and three of his kickoffs made it to the end zone.
The Hillmen travel to Nevada Union next week to take on the Miners, who lost to Antelope 45-15. Game time is 7 p.m. and there will be no preliminary game as NU does not field a JV team.
Placer’s JVs also won, 48-15.