Opinions varied later on the degree of precariousness of Cleveland’s situation, but however it unspooled, the Storm authored a huge comeback Thursday night.
The top-ranked Class 6A team in the coaches’ poll was down three touchdowns early in the second quarter to Volcano Vista, but Cleveland rattled off 30 consecutive points and eventually beat the seventh-ranked Hawks 44-33 at Nusenda Community Stadium in a matchup for first place in District 1-6A.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Cleveland receiver Nic Trujillo, who caught two touchdown passes, “but we need wins like this.”
Volcano Vista (5-3, 2-1 in 1-6) was ultimately undone by seven turnovers, five of them interceptions.
But early on, the Hawks were smooth and efficient and explosive, and it was they who played like the higher-ranked team in this game.
Led by backup quarterback Elliot Paskett-Bell, taking over from Josh Gerardo who was injured on the first play of the game – which was a 62-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Valdez – Volcano Vista scored the first 20 points of the game in the first 10 1/2 minutes.
Paskett-Bell threw a 37-yard TD pass to Kieran Cordova and also went 64 yards to Valdez late in the quarter.
Cleveland (8-0, 3-0 in 1-6A) worked its way back after falling into a 27-7 hole two minutes into the second quarter.
“I had my doubts,” said junior defensive back Devonte Shendo, who had two of Cleveland’s five picks, “but coach (Heath) Ridenour says, we can’t doubt ourselves, we’re a great football team.”
Cleveland had not trailed in any of its first seven games.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted it to in the first quarter,” Ridenour said, “but I thought we were super resilient. We kept fighting, we kept doing what we needed to do to claw our way back into the game.”
A 21-point second quarter did just that for the Storm, with Trujillo hauling in TD passes covering 44 and 66 yards from quarterback Evan Wysong, and Lucious Dickson adding a 1-yard run.
Cleveland took the lead for good midway through the third quarter, on a 15-yard scoring throw from Wysong to Ethan Duran for a 28-27 edge.
Paskett-Bell threw for 440 yards in relief of Gerardo, but the turnovers were crippling to Volcano Vista’s chances.
Wysong added a field goal and 26-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter for a 37-27 lead. The Hawks pulled within 37-33 with 3:11 to go on a TD pass to Cordova, but Isaac Medrano’s 24-yard TD run for the Storm with 90 seconds to go clinched it.
CLEVELAND 44, VOLCANO VISTA 33
Cleveland 0 21 7 16 — 44
Volcano Vista 20 7 0 6 — 33
Scoring: VV, Kaden Valdez 62 pass from Josh Gerardo (kick failed); VV, Kieran Cordova 37 pass from Elliot Paskett-Bell (Diego Garcia kick); VV, Valdez 64 pass from Paskett-Bell (Garcia kick); C, Nic Trujillo 44 pass from Evan Wysong (Wysong kick); VV, Niko Salazar 8 run (Garcia kick); C, Lucious Dickson 1 run (Wysong kick); C, Trujillo 66 pass from Wysong (Wysong kick); C, Ethan Duran 15 pass from Wysong (Wysong kick); C, Wysong 27 FG; C, Wysong 26 run (kick failed); VV, Cordova 24 pass from Paskett-Bell (kick failed); C, Isaac Medrano 24 run (Wysong kick). Records: C 8-0, 3-0 in 1-6A; VV 5-3, 2-1.
First downs: C 19; VV 22. Rushes-yards: C 46-171; VV 20-39. Passing: C 16-27-1—297; VV 23-42-5—502. Total offense: C 458; VV 541. Punts-avg.: C 5-45.4; VV 1-37.0. Fumbles-lost: C 1-1; VV 2-2. Penalties-yards: C 10-98; VV 11-136.