Yucaipa quarterback Nico Garrido came off the bench to throw for a touchdown and run for another but it was not enough to counter the many options of Cajon in a 33-16 loss on Friday before an overflow home crowd.
Garrido gave it his best to keep YHS on top in the Citrus Belt League, however, when he entered to replace injured Keo McChesney, the Thunderbirds were trailing Cajon 26-0 with under a minute left in the first half. The senior immediately threw a 40-yard completion to Gavin Norris. On the next play Garrido cut the lead to 26-7 by running for a six-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half.
Garrido and Norris connected again on a 45-yard completion, setting up a four-yard touchdown reception by Norris, making it 33-16 with 2:28 left in the game. Norris totaled 117 yards on five receptions. Yucaipa’s other star receiver Ethan Abreau was injured in the first quarter and did not return.
Each team has two Citrus Belt League games left but the Thunderbirds (4-1, 7-1) can only hope Cajon (5-0, 7-1) loses to Redlands East Valley on Nov. 3 to earn a share of the league title. The Thunderbirds travel to Citrus Valley tonight (Oct. 27) and will conclude the regular season Nov. 3 on homecoming against Miller.
Yucaipa and Cajon are both ranked among the top-3 in their divisions and are almost assured of a CIF-Southern Section playoff game. “Credit Cajon. They have some weapons and caused us problems. They kept our defense on the field the whole game,” said Yucaipa coach Justin Price. “We played great defense and it gave us chances.” Yucaipa was able to limit Cajon to its lowest offensive output of the season.
Shortly after Jason Klatt kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 26-10, YHS earned another scoring opportunity when Kolby Beamish recovered a fumble at its own 35 but were forced to punt after three downs. Yucaipa had three other unsuccessful drives that started in good scoring position. The Thunderbirds were held to 60 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
Likewise, Yucaipa was able to contain the running and passing game of Cajon with the exception of its quarterback Jayden Daniels, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for another. Daniels took off running for 111 yards on 18 carries. He completed five passes to 6-foot-8 receiver Darren Jones, good for 128 yards including a 40-yard scoring reception to give Cajon a 7-0 lead near the end of the first quarter. Daniels finished by completing 14-of-24 passes for 221 yards.
The two first half fumbles by Yucaipa that were converted into Cajon touchdowns put YHS into an early deficit. “I tried to spark everyone and at no time did we ever give up,” said Garrido. “Our offensive line blocked outstanding. Our defense allowed us to outscore them (16-7) in the second half.” Garrido finished by completed 9-of-18 passes for 138 yards and rushed for a team-high 31 yards.
All-CIF strong safety Matthew Best led Yucaipa last season when it won in four overtimes at Cajon. “Daniels was more of a factor this year but we made him throw to other players,” said Best. “Cajon is a solid team. We came out and did our job.”
Best and Price both credited YHS defensive back Asani Hampton with a player-of-the-game performance. Hampton disrupted receivers that stood more than a foot taller. Price pointed out that Cajon has six division one college bound players led by 6-6, 245 pound prep All-American Jeremiah Martin. “He is what I expected and more,” said Price.
“I just hope that everyone comes to practice mad on Monday,” added Price. “I hope everyone comes to the Citrus Valley game mad, too, said Price.”
Garrido concluded: “The loss hurts now. Sometimes a loss like this will make for a better team.”