If you think Ridgeview’s opening act is something, you should see its finale.
The host Wolf Pack scored a defensive touchdown 37 seconds into the game, took the rest of the half off and then closed with a fantastic finale on Friday night, pulling away for a 40-21 victory over Tulare Union in the first round of the Central Section Division I football playoffs.
No. 8 Ridgeview (8-3) advances to play at top-seeded Fresno-Central in next week’s quarterfinal round.
Trailing 14-7 at the half, the Wolf Pack scored on its next four possessions and put the game out of reach with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Jaron Amos finished with 135 yards rushing on 13 carries, including a 20-yard touchdown run to cap Ridgeview’s opening drive of the second half. Like many of his teammates, he picked up the pace in the second half, rushing for 96 yards on seven carries.
Wolf Pack quarterback Justin Hinzo shook off a miserable first half, where he was intercepted three times and completed just 5 of 18 passes for 40 yards. He was 6 of 9 in the second half and finished with 134 yards passing. He finished off the Wolf Pack’s scoring with a 26-yard scoring run to build the lead to 40-14 with 8:44 to play.
Ridgeview opened the scoring when Tommy Strickland picked off a pass from the Tribe’s Jorge Gonzalez and ran 18 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game. It gave the Wolf Pack what turned out to be its only points of the first half.
The lead held up until Tulare Union (8-3) scored two touchdowns in the final 19.7 seconds of the first half.
Gonzalez, who was sacked three times and threw five interceptions, scrambled on a second-and-goal from the Ridgeview 22, broke free and wound up in the end zone for the tying score.
Two plays later, the Tride took the lead when Hinzo was hit as he was throwing and Josh Rodriguez picked off the pass and ran 32 yards for a score to give Tulare Union a 14-7 lead on the final play of the first half.
But the Wolf Pack picked up the pace in the second half, scoring in every conceivable way.
After a 3-yard TD run by Anthony Ramirez gave Ridgeview a 21-14 lead, Fabien Guillen converted on a 28-yard field goal attempt to build the lead to 10 points.
On the ensuing kickoff, Xavier Hailey slipped while receiving the kick and was downed at his own 3-yard line. Two plays later, Ridgeview tackled Julian Espinoza in the end zone for a safety after a short pass play, and Mekhi Deans returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards for a touchdown to build the Wolf Pack’s lead to 33-14 with 36.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
Ridgeview’s Alijah Alexander-Williams had 87 receiving yards on four catches, including a 47-yard pass play that he finished off by fumbling a sure touchdown into the end zone for a touchback.
The Wolf Pack had four turnovers in the first half and were penalized 11 times for 92 yards.
In addition to the five interceptions, Gonzalez was 16 of 32 passing for 186 yards and a touchdown. He threw a 32-yard scoring pass to Brian Moore with 1:13 to play. Willie James had 93 receiving yards on six catches, while John White led Tulare’s ground attack with 80 yards on 10 carries.