The Chula Vista Kiwanis Bowl football series between Chula Vista and Hilltop high schools has generally produced a feast or famine outcome in its 10 years. Host Chula Vista’s 17-10 non-league victory last Friday was only the second time in the schools’ last 10 games that a winner had been determined by a seven-point margin.
And last Friday’s contest might prove to be the most competitive thus far in the series. The Spartans could not issue a collective sigh of relief until Hilltop quarterback Omar Hernandez’s fourth-down pass completion to Montel Campbell fell short of the first down marker with 1:37 left while driving in Spartan territory.
Among those CV players who were thankful was junior quarterback Ricky Estevez, who completed eight of 17 passing attempts for 133 yards and one touchdown.
“We’ve got to start getting it together earlier in the game,” he said, somewhat frustrated. “We can’t wait until the second half to play. We’ve got to play four quarters.”
The game, which builds on the schools’ longtime west side rivalry, has become more intense in recent years. The bowl game’s founder, the Chula Vista Kiwanis Club, recognizes both teams.
A $1,000 check is presented to the winning school while the losing school receives $500. Most valuable offensive and defensive players also are selected for each team, regardless of the score.
Ray Holden, who scored on a 40-yard interception return in the second quarter, earned Chula Vista’s offensive MVP award. He finished the game with four catches for 72 yards.
Michael Molina earned the Spartans’ defensive MVP award, and deservedly so, after keying a stingy CVHS defense that held the Lancers to just 59 passing yards and 84 rushing yards.
“It came down to heart and desire in this game,” Molina said. “It came down to which team wanted it more, and (our defense) decided we wanted it.”
The Spartans (2-1) overcame a flurry of mistakes in the opening half to escape with a 7-7 halftime standoff. Chula Vista fumbled on its first offensive series of the game to set up a three-yard scoring run by Montel Campbell to give the Lancers the early lead.
Hilltop (0-3) dominated the first half but could only manage a tie for its effort.
Chula Vista took a 10-7 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Omar Rebollo in the third quarter; the Lancers matched that on a booming 41-yard field goal by Hernandez early in the fourth quarter.
Javante Reed scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a seven-yard pass from Estevez with 6:14 remaining in the game.
Campbell, Hilltop’s offensive MVP, rushed 21 times for 46 yards. David Vasquez, the Lancers’ defensive MVP, led his team with 14 tackles.
Despite picks by Dylan Griffin (a 58-yard return) and Ben Bernabe, Hilltop coach Cody Roelof said he felt his team didn’t play well enough to win. “We made too many mistakes that we could not overcome,” he said.
Griffin’s pick late in the first quarter put the ball at the CV 29. However, the drive stalled and Hernandez attempted a 43-yard field goal, which just fell short. It was a missed opportunity to take a 10-0 lead on the hosts.
The Lancer defense contained both Reed and Isaac Martinez throughout the first half. Martinez had returned three kicks for touchdowns in the Spartans’ previous win against visiting Sweetwater. However, against Hilltop, he managed just 10 return yards on four attempts.
Reed, who scored twice in CV’s victory over the Red Devils, was limited to 43 yards on 10 carries. As a team, the Spartans rushed for 104 yards on 33 attempts. Donovan Mendez led the hosts with 58 yards on 15 carries.
Estevez had a bit more success through the air. Richard Walker had one catch for 32 yards while Brandon Nealy turned in a 20-yard grab.
By contrast, it was a dismal passing effort on the night by Hernandez, who completed six of 16 attempts for a season-low 59 yards. Hernandez did rush 13 times for 38 yards while Abraham Gonzalez had two catches for 30 yards and P.J. Greene caught one pass for 14 yards.
But it was the Spartans who made the big plays to break an otherwise defensive stalemate. Walker and Holden each made receptions for sizable yardage to set up Reed’s game-winning touchdown.
Still, the Lancers had a chance to get back in the game after moving the ball to the Chula Vista 30-yard line with 3:15 to play in the game when Hernandez did manage to convert a fourth-down pass play.
While the outcome proved frustrating for Hilltop, Roelof remained upbeat.
“It’ll come, it’ll come,” he said in reference to the team’s first win of the season.
Both teams have byes this week. Hilltop hosts El Capitan on Sept. 30 while Chula Vista plays at top 10-ranked Mira Mesa.
Chula Vista Kiwanis Bowl Series
2002: Chula Vista 44, Hilltop 14
2003: Chula Vista 57, Hilltop 37
2004: Chula Vista 27, Hilltop 20
2005: Hilltop 32, Chula Vista 13
2006: Chula Vista 47, Hilltop 7
2007: Chula Vista 42, Hilltop 19
2008: Chula Vista 42, Hilltop 8
2009: Chula Vista 49, Hilltop 18
2010: Hilltop 35, Chula Vista 14
2011: Chula Vista 17, Hilltop 10
•Chula Vista leads series 8-2