Do you remember Andover Central's win over Valley Center last year? That's the one where the Hornets led by one late in the first half but trailed at halftime. They didn't score in the second half and lost 20-8.
This year's game between these same two teams was eerily reminiscent of last year's contest. Valley Center led by one late in the second quarter, trailed at halftime and didn't score in the third quarter.
But that's where the similarity ended as the Hornets threw a fourth-quarter scare in the Jaguars before Andover Central held on for a 25-19 win in its season opener Aug. 31
"We started a lot of kids who were very inexperienced," ACHS coach Tom Audley said. "We struggled a little bit on the Friday night speed."
Despite a 1-26 record the past three seasons, Valley Center didn't back down from Andover Central, who many have picked to win the AV-CTL Division II.
The Hornets took the opening kickoff and drove from their 29 to a fourth-and-13 at the Jags' 13-yard line. That drive ended when a 30-yard field goal attempt was blocked by the Andover line.
Central couldn't move the ball until its final possession of the quarter. The Jags scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Meier to Kolten Holinde with 57 seconds left on the clock. The kick failed and the score remained 6-0.
After stopping Valley on a four-and-out, Central took over at its own 14. With third-and-four from its 44, Meier lofted a soft pass into the right flat that was batted into the air by Hornet linebacker Justin Holdaway. He nestled the ball into his arms at the Jags 49 and cruised untouched down the east sideline to the end zone. He even kicked the extra point that gave Valley a 7-6 lead 8:48 before intermission.
Central squeezed in another TD just before halftime on an 11-yard pass from Meier to Cameron Hurley and took a 12-7 lead into the locker room.
"I thought our kids got down a little bit but finished the half well," Audley said. "I thought we played a great third quarter."
The third quarter was all Central. Midway through the quarter, Meier again connected with Holinde in the end zone, this time from 24 yards out. Holinde finished with six catches for 151 yards and two scores.
On the ensuing kickoff, Valley Center watched the ball bounce around and neither downed it or picked it up. Centrals' Zach Schulte did down it at the Hornet 16. On fourth-and eight, Meier found Alex List for a 14-yard touchdown. Dalton Rodd's extra point made it 25-7, Jags, with 5:43 let in the quarter.
"I think we kind of relaxed a little bit (after that touchdown) and you can't do that," Audley said. "You just got to keep attacking."
Page 2 of 2 - Neither team could move the ball to speak of the rest of the third and most of the fourth quarter.
An 8-yard touchdown run by Holdaway made it 25-13, Central, with 5:15 left in the game. With Central expecting an onside kick, the Hornets crossed them up and kicked it away.
Cireece Smith returned the kick and while trying to twist and turn away from tacklers, the ball popped loose and bounced near the sidelines. Valley's Jed Elliott, a 5-feet-7-inch 174 pound defensive lineup, scooped up the ball in stride and rumbled 12 yards to pay dirt. That made it 25-19, with an even five minutes to play.
"We fumbled the ball – it wasn't an effort issue – and they scoop and score," Audley said. "Those last five minutes were pretty long."
Although Valley got the ball back, it was pinned deep in its own territory and couldn't move.
Meier finished 10 of 16 for 196 yards, four TDs and an interception.