In his first varsity start, Yucaipa High School quarterback Casey Graf threw two long scoring passes to Austin Bolinger and another to David Fisher to lead the Thunderbirds over visiting Grand Terrace. The 34-20 season opening win last Friday was also the varsity debut of sophomore running back Haiden Smith who closed out the victory with two fourth quarter touchdowns as the result of grinding out 142 yards on 30 carries.
The game featured many big plays by both teams beginning with the opening kickoff that Fisher returned 70 yards. Fisher set the stage for Smith’s 23-yard scoring run with a 55-yard kickoff return. Fisher’s play-making night saw him grabbing a 46-yard reception from Graf to give YHS a 14-7 lead at the half. The game began turning in Yucaipa’s favor when Bolinger capped a 99-yard drive with an 86-yard reception from Graf to make it 7-7 as time expired in the first quarter.
Bolinger finished with six catches for 186 yards. His 19-yard touchdown catch following a fumble recovery by teammate Yahya Yousef increased Yucaipa’s lead to 21-7 after three quarters. Playing without starting quarterback Mikhi Lewis, Grand Terrace got within 27-20 after a spectacular 50-yard touchdown catch by Dominic Balderama thrown by Corey Young. The Titans took a 7-0 lead on an 80-yard scoring pass from Jaden Wells to Lonzel Bradford, who later hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass from Young.
“Our defense played well except for the three big plays,” said YHS coach Justin Price. “It was our first game and we were undisciplined.”
Price shook his head in amazement when asked about Smith’s performance. He thought Graf did “some good things.” Graf, a 16-year-old senior, finished by completing 13-of-26 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once. The tall, slender quarterback was just as pleased with his fumble recovery that kept a fourth quarter scoring drive alive. Along with praising his offensive line, Price noted the play of Grand Terrace lineman David Gusta.
“We did some great things. We made some mistakes,” said Graf. “I like how we stayed composed and how Smith closed out the game for us.”
Smith warmed up as the game progressed, running for 109 yards on 20 carries in the second half. Bolinger was impressed with his younger teammate who “pounded out the win for us at the end." Bolinger did say he was not surprised by his own outstanding showing. He and teammate Fisher say that good performances by them are expected.
Including his 46-yard touchdown, Fisher managed 61 yards on three catches. He earned 131 yards with two kickoff returns, had a 35-yard punt return, rushed for 22 yards on three carries and as a defender broke up a number of attempts. He closed out opening night by intercepting a pass with 1:26 left in the game. Fisher totaled 269 all-purpose yards. "I expect to do something special every game," said Fisher. "What surprised me was that I did not get tired. It felt really good to play against other people besides teammates."
YHS received strong play from linebacker Wesley Cybula who led the team with seven tackles. Jackson Beamish, Nolan Vasquez, Justin Stevens, and Yousef had six tackles each. Price said he expects a different look tonight (Sept. 6) in Phelan against Serrano, a school noted for a power running game. "Serrano is the real deal. It's a tough place to play but a fun place to play. Price has competed against Serrano as both a quarterback at Apple Valley High School and head coach at Granite Hills.