The Lions responded to an opening score by Deer Valley. Quarterback Dominic Mather threw completions of 32 yards to receiver Kyle Wise and 21 yards to tight end Isaac Freytes.
Nico Zanarini plunged into the end zone from two yards and Mather kicked the conversion to give the Lions an 8-6 lead. Mather hit receiver Jared Rodgers in stride for a 34-yard touchdown and the Lions took a 14-6 lead into halftime. The Lions defense – led by Ivan Collaco, Emiliano Diaz and Anthony Gripe – made a strong showing against the pesky wing offense of Deer Valley.
Zanarini grinded out several tough yards, setting up a Mather quarterback sneak to set up the Junior Midget Lions with a 20-19 lead into the fourth quarter. But Deer Valley scored with 12 ticks left on the clock to end the Lions’ hopes of moving on.
The Lions, finishing the season with a 7-3 record, were in a position to win all three of those losses at the end of those games. The boys truly were an inspiration to their parents and coaches and have built a solid foundation for the Midget team next year.
After finishing the regular season undefeated, the East County Lions’ Pee Wee team started their playoff run with a 32-0 thumping of a tough Antioch team. The dominant rushing of Ronnie Rivers, Baylei Coston and D’Ante Killian led the Lions offense.
Rivers also connected with Abel Ordaz on a 32-yard touchdown pass. Adrian Guitron booted all four of the Lions’ two-point kicks. Defensively, the Lions broke Antioch’s will with tremendous pressure as they forced three turnovers. Devan Lance made a leaping interception to stop one drive and Travis Baxter forced a fumble that was recovered by Rivers and turned into a Lions TD.
The Lions linebacking corps of Cole Zanarini, Harlan Rashada, Baxter, Ordaz and Coston made tackle after tackle as the Antioch offense couldn’t get anything going all day. The Lions now play in the semifinal game against a fast West County Spartans team. The stakes: a bid to the Turkey Bowl.
The Jr. Pee Wees played their last football game this season, finishing with a heartbreaking loss to the San Ramon T-Birds 27-16. After holding the T-Birds to a one-touchdown lead in the first half, the Lions came back hard, pushing the score to 16-14 in their favor. The boys fought with everything they had, but made a couple of mistakes, which the T-Birds took advantage of and scored.
– Contributed by Ingrid Gregerson