West Ranch (8-0) had a lot riding on its shoulders before this matchup. After seeing success in the past three weeks with wins over Saugus and Valencia, a chance at securing a share of the Foothill League title with a win over Golden Valley (6-2) was on the line Friday night. The Grizzlies were coming off a 14-12 win against Canyon the previous week.

The Wildcats took care of business with a 35-7 win over the Grizzlies and made program history by getting its first-ever Foothill League title. 

“It’s been 7 years in the making. When I took over we were last and the goal was to be first,” West Ranch head coach Chris Varner said. “Testament to all the players and coaches that believed in my vision that we could do it.” 

West Ranch football team celebrating, after claiming a share at the Foothill League title at Valencia high school, Friday 101422 (Daniel Rios/Canyons News)

The Wildcats ran the ball eight times on the opening drive until Tyler Scott found the endzone on a 5-yard run to put them up 7-0 in the first quarter.

“Obviously everyone is trying to stop (quarterback) Ryan (Staub),” Varner said. “So it’s nice to have a stable of running backs to get the job done.” 

The Wildcats’ offense had no trouble in the first quarter. Driving right down the field again, Staub found wideout Isaac Ellis for a 24-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 14-0. 

The Grizzlies’ offense was finally able to get something going in the second quarter. On an 18-play drive that started on its 20-yard line and facing a fourth down, Golden Valley decided to attempt a 30-yard field goal. The ball bounced off the left upright and was no good. Both teams headed into the locker room with the score still favoring West Ranch 14-0.

Coming out of halftime it was all Wildcats from there. With 8 minutes left in the third, Luke Deperno had a 24-yard run that took the offense to the Golden Valley 2-yard line. He punched it in from 2-yards out, and up the lead to 21-0.

On the next Golden Valley possession, quarterback Christopher Melkonian made his first mistake of the night. He threw an interception that was picked off by Wildcat defensive back Grayson Gill, who returned it to the Golden Valley 7-yard line.  

West Ranch wasted no time in finding the endzone. Three plays after the interception Staub found wideout Maverick Diaz in the corner of the endzone for a 1-yard touchdown pass. The Wildcat lead was 28-0 going into the fourth quarter. 

The Grizzlies wouldn’t go scoreless all night. With four seconds remaining, Christopher Melkonian hit wideout Willaim Hake for an 11-yard touchdown pass which avoided the shutout.

Varner knows how much this team has fought over the years. He didn’t fail to mention it after the biggest win in program history. 

“These are the COVID kids, and they had to get beat up by the seniors and stuff in the league,” Varner said. “They believed in each other and stuck with it, and this is the result.” 

West Ranch improves to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in league play, while Golden Valley falls to 6-3 and 3-2. With a win next week against Castaic, West Ranch can claim the Foothill League title outright. With a loss and a Saugus win next week, the title will be shared with the Centurions. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies head into their bye week.  

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