APPLE VALLEY —
In this high desert community 100 miles north of Los Angeles, you need to pay attention only to street and highway signs to understand this is where Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger used to call home. It’s definitely Happy Trails for those living with large backyards and residences that can be bought for $400,000.
When it comes to high school football, you have to wonder if this is Southern California’s secret spot for linemen. On Friday night, there was 6-foot-7, 320-pound Alabama commit Raymond Pulido of Apple Valley going against one of next year’s top recruits, 6-5, 260-pound Paki Finau of Hesperia Oak Hills.
“He was really good, I’m not going to lie,” said Finau, who played some defense against Pulido’s blocking. “I love the competition.”
“The high desert is underrated as far as talent goes,” Oak Hills coach Robert Metzger said. “You see a lot more power running, double tight ends. A lot of smash-mouth football. You won’t see much speed, but desert kids are tough.”
Apple Valley coach Kyle Godfrey said Pulido is known to “carry a grocery pack of food throughout the day.” And running back/linebacker Dustin Reynolds, a Northern Arizona commit, is so physical he looks like he could be a WWE wrestler.
It was homecoming for Apple Valley, with the Mojave River League title at stake. Brisket and baby back ribs were being served to fans. A howling wind made the flags wave. It was a night when unbeaten Oak Hills (9-0) used the passing of Diego Lopez and the receiving of Shane Young to come away with a 41-27 victory. Afterward, the teams had to be separated with no exchanging of handshakes.
Young caught touchdown passes of 52, 21 and 65 yards — all in the second half. Lopez completed 11 of 22 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns. Apple Valley struggled tackling receivers after the initial catch.
Oak Hills opened a 27-13 lead late in the third quarter, then Reynolds, who finished with three touchdowns, scored his second touchdown with 9:58 left, a nine-yard run, to cut Apple Valley’s deficit to 27-20. But Young struck again, breaking a tackle and running into the end zone.
Oak Hills took a 13-10 lead in the first half. The Bulldogs’ young players came through. Freshman Jeffery Johnson had an interception and sophomore Karson Cox ran 22 yards for a touchdown. Senior Shea Gabriel showed good speed in taking a short pass, then breaking a tackle for a 69-yard touchdown.
Reynolds started the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown catch in which he caught the ball near the right sideline and ran into the left end zone. His versatility is impressive. On defense, he ran down an Oak Hills ballcarrier, single-handedly tackling him.
Kicker Kyler Peters of Apple Valley (7-2) made field goals of 38 and 44 yards.
Metzger got to celebrate without any additional injury to himself. In his last game, while trying to motivate players, he broke his hand hitting a white board. Nine consecutive victories might be worth his sacrifice. And Oak Hills’ schedule has been good. The Bulldogs have beaten Palmdale Highland, Redlands Citrus Valley and Ventura St. Bonaventure in nonleague games.
Both schools could be landing spots in what figures to be a highly competitive Division 2 playoff bracket. Pairings will be announced a week from Sunday.