With a roster of 22 players and already missing four, Big Valley Christian couldn’t afford any injuries in Friday’s game against Waterford.
However, on the second play of the game, senior offensive lineman Anthony McDonald went down with a serious knee injury. The injury, along with four turnovers, was too much to overcome as the Lions lost their first game of the season, falling to the Wildcats, 35-21, at Big Valley Christian High.
“Depth for us has been an issue,” Lions coach Brian Berkefeld said. “We lost our best linebacker in the Le Grand game to an ankle injury and lost one of our top lineman (tonight). They kind of out-athleted us and we wore down at the end of the game.”
The game was tied at 21 with a little under two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Wildcats scored 14 points to end the quarter.
Senior quarterback Michael Vivo connected with senior wide receiver Ricardo Ramirez for a 22-yard touchdown and a few plays later, Ramirez intercepted a Gunnar Selover pass and returned it to the Lions’ 3. The next play, Ramirez ran into the end zone untouched.
Ramirez and Vivo provided the spark for the Wildcats, who are 3-0 for the first time since 2010.
Ramirez had seven receptions for 112 yards, one receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown, and one interception. Vivo completed 11 of 20 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns and also had 80 rushing yards on 14 attempts and a touchdown.
On defense, he had an interception and a fumble recovery.
“We had a hard time containing their athletes,” Berkefeld said. “(Vivo) is a heck of a player. He is a great athlete and he had a lot of broken tackles. It’s just a player making great plays.”
The first quarter was the Timothy Doyle kicking experience. After missing last week’s game, the senior returned to the lineup and made two field goals in the first quarter for the Lions, a 35- and 38-yarder, as Big Valley Christian led 6-0.
“He was on our team last year and didn’t kick for us,” Berkefeld said. “We kind of just found him. He kind of showed up and said, ‘Coach I can kick..’ And we were like OK, wow. A 38-yarder is not an easy field goal in high school and we are happy with what he does for us.”
Vivo had a 2-yard score and found Ramirez wide-open for 42 yards for a touchdown as the Wildcats led 14-6 with 9:32 left in the second quarter.
Set up by a Josh Grabowski 39-yard run on fourth down, junior running back Javyn Drobnick punched it into the end zone and the Lions converted their two-point attempt to tie the game at 14 later in the quarter.
Drobnick had a 19-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and finished with 27 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns while Grabowski had 10 carries for 98 yards.
Despite the loss, Berkefeld is proud of how his team has played and has used the tough non-conference schedule to push his team to get better.
“We are playing two Division VI Southern League teams,” said Berkefeld, whose team is in Division VII. “We played Harker, who was a semifinalist team last year and next week, we are playing the team that beat us in the playoffs last year, Woodland Christian. We did that for a reason because we want to lift up our program and show that we want to compete every single week.”