Butte Valley upsets Dunsmuir in NSCIF semifinal

Steve Gerace
A disappointed Dunsmuir High School football team at the end of Friday night's Northern Section Division VI semifinal loss to Butte Valley in Dunsmuir.

Visiting Butte Valley shook the Dunsmuir Tigers early in Friday night's section semifinal game and never relinquished the lead. The No. 1 seeded Tigers fought back, but their first loss, 25-22, was a season-ender.

California North 8-Man League champion Dunsmuir finished 11-1 overall, while No. 3 Butte Valley (9-2) celebrated a return to the NSCIF Division VI title game. The Bulldogs will be trying to win it all for the second time in three years when they face No. 2 Redding Christian (11-1) Friday in Redding.

Dunsmuir defeated Redding Christian in last year's championship game. Butte Valley topped Dunsmuir to win the title in 2011.

From the opening kickoff Friday night – a return to Dunsmuir's 35 yard line – the Bulldogs held back a Tiger team that was averaging more than 50 points a game.

It was a rare low-scoring game of 8-man football for these two powerhouses. Butte Valley led 19-14 at the half, and each team scored just one touchdown in the second half.

Butte Valley senior quarterback Bobby Vaughan, wearing No. 56, gave the Tigers fits.

He scored on a 14 yard run to finish off the game's opening drive and put the Bulldogs up 6-0.

Vaughan shredded the Tiger defense on a 9 yard touchdown run that made it 12-0 later in the first quarter.

Then he completed passes to Cade Vercellotti for Butte Valley's other two scores, a 15 yard touchdown in the second quarter that made it 19-6 and a 12 yarder with just over 3 minutes to play in the third quarter for a 25-14 lead.

Vaughan was especially effective running up the middle in the first half. Then, after the Tigers got within 3 points with less than 2 minutes to play in the game, he ran wide left and got loose for a 43 yard gain to Dunsmuir's 21 yard line. That sealed the deal for the 'Dogs.

The Tigers kept fighting back, but never could break the Bulldogs the way they did during a 42-7 league win on the same field Oct. 4.

Unable to get loose for the long runs that have been their trademark, the Tigers went to the air and found some success there.

Sophomore Tommy Stibi caught three long passes from quarterback Dayton Pepperdine, and CJ Palmer made two spectacular catches late in the game. Palmer's jump ball catch for a 30 yard touchdown with 1:48 to play and defender Trevor Robertson in his face was followed by Chase Sordahl's conversion run that made it 25-22.

Palmer also made a diving one-handed catch near mid-field during that final, 90 yard scoring drive.

Dunsmuir only had to go 23 yards for its first score after Pepperdine recovered a fumble that resulted from a high snap while the Bulldogs were trying to punt.

Pepperdine's 2 yard touchdown run made it 12-6 just before the end of the quarter.

The Tigers got it going late in the half on a 79 yard scoring drive. Pepperdine had runs of 19 and 11 yards, Palmer had a 14 yard run, and Sordahl had a 15 yarder, 8 yarder, and 1 yard touchdown run with 0:36 in the half.

After a pass interference penalty on the conversion moved the ball back to the 18 yard line, Sordahl was being tackled when he pitched to Pepperdine who ran it in to get the Tigers within 5.

Some good fortune before the half did not result in any points for the Tigers.

With the ball on its own 20 yard line, Butte Valley called a timeout with one second to play in the half. They then tried a long pass that Pepperdine intercepted and returned to the 20 yard line. A personal foul on the Bulldogs put the ball on the 9 yard line and gave the Tigers one play with 0:00 on the clock. But the snap from center rolled to Pepperdine and the play went nowhere.

It was one of several mishandled balls for the Tigers. And there was a rapid series of three calls by an official that all went against Dunsmuir and contributed to Butte Valley's third scoring drive.

A snap over Vaughan's head and a penalty had Butte Valley facing 3rd and 31 from its own 25 yard line.

Tiger fans thought Butte Valley fumbled and their team had recovered on a play that was ultimately negated by an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. The official ruled the receiver was down by contact.

Then the Tigers were called for pass interference on a play that looked like a clean pass break-up.

Then the Tiger sideline was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty.

Still Butte Valley was 2 yards short of a first down, but Vaughan picked up those yards on a fourth down run, and the Bulldogs drove 43 more yards on four plays to take their 19-6 lead.

At game's end, there was joy on the visitors' side of the field, while the stunned Tigers tried to come to grips with a tough loss.

Dunsmuir had won 14 games in a row over the past two seasons and hadn't lost a home game since Oct. 7, 2011, when they lost 27-26 to Butte Valley.

"11-1 is a great season," was one of the refrains heard on the Tigers' side of the field. Of course that's true, but it wasn't exactly lifting Tiger spirits at the moment.