A season-opening victory was within the catch radius of the Fountain Valley High football team Friday.
But the Barons’ failure to connect on a collection of would-be touchdown passes, as well as a strong performance by Wildomar Elsinore, helped the host Tigers grasp a 27-13 victory.
Fountain Valley, led by first-year coach Chris Anderson, could not come up with a reception five times when a pass landed within arm’s length of a receiver in the end zone. The Barons also just missed on two aerials to open receivers behind the last defender.
Adding to the hand-wringing of the Fountain Valley contingent was a touchdown run nullified by just the second of the Barons’ three penalties. A holding call wiped out an apparent 29-yard scoring burst off left tackle by senior tailback Tanner Ciokt midway through the second quarter. Four plays later, the visitors turned the ball over on downs just outside the red zone.
Throw in an Elsinore goal-line stand midway through the third quarter, that led to a 97-yard touchdown drive for the Tigers, and Anderson may forever look back upon his head-coaching debut with a sense of regret.
There was, however, also a sense of pride for the 33-year-old former assistant, whose Barons displayed plenty of positives.
Ciok gained 131 yards on 17 rushing attempts, including a 13-yard touchdown run that pulled Fountain Valley within 14-6 near the end of the first quarter.
Ciok also caught four passes for 49 yards from junior quarterback Jimmy Russell, who threw for 186 yards and rushed for 39 more.
Fountain Valley senior wideout Blake Anderson had eight receptions for 126 yards, while Glenn Atkins fielded a 14-yard scoring pass that cut Elsinore’s lead to 14 points late in the game.
Fountain Valley followed Atkins’ touchdown grab by recovering an onside kick. But the drive eventually fizzled when a fourth-down pass ricocheted off a sliding receiver near the goal line with 26 seconds left.
The Barons, who did not punt, failed to convert four times on fourth down to let the Tigers’ defense off the hook.
“It’s a game of opportunities,” Chris Anderson said. “We were inside the five-yard line twice and didn’t come away with any points. We had a touchdown run called back by penalty and that last drive, we were inside the 30. If we take advantage of opportunities in the red zone, it’s a different outcome.”
The outcome seemed assured early as Elsinore, which has made the CIF Southern Section playoffs 17 times during coach Tony Peralta’s 18 seasons at the helm, scored on its first two possessions to create a 14-0 cushion.
The hosts claimed a 21-6 advantage by driving 71 yards on nine plays late in the first half, then upped their lead with an eight-play scoring march after turning the Barons away on fourth-and-goal from the one to halt the first drive of the second half.
“We didn’t do a good enough job tackling on defense and playing our keys,” Anderson said. “We did a lot of good, but we have to clean up some stuff as a coaching staff to get our guys to execute, especially in the red zone. I think we played with great effort tonight, but it was more of an execution thing on both sides of the ball.”
Gemini Batimana carried 14 times for 163 yards for the Tigers, who had 299 rushing yards and 389 yards of total offense.
Fountain Valley, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division 7 preseason poll, finished with 380 offensive yards.
Neither team had a turnover.
Elsinore 27, Fountain Valley 13
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Fountain Valley 6 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 13
Elsinore 14 – 7 – 6 – 0 — 27
E – Roe 7 run (Sandoval kick), 8:25.
E – Batimana 47 run (Sandoval kick), 5:34.
FV – Ciok 3 run (kick failed), 1:16.
E – McEntire 8 pass from Brady (Sandoval kick), 1:28.
E – Goodman 14 run (kick failed), 3:34.
FV – Atkins 14 pass from Russell (Martinez kick), 1:43.
FV – Ciok, 17-131, 1 TD.
E – Batimana, 14-163, 1 TD.
FV – Russell, 15-30-0, 196, 1 TD.
E – Brady, 5-8-0, 90, 1 TD.
FV – Anderson, 8-126.
E – Barnhart, 1-46.
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