Fontana Steelers keep playoff hopes alive

Written by Bob on October 28th, 2009

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Kenneth McClain had a big game with a 95-yard touchdown run along with a 50-yard catch and run touchdown in helping the Fontana Steelers defeat the visiting Rialto Eisenhower Eagles, 42-27, in Citrus Belt League play, Friday.
By BOB OTTO / Writer & Photographer

FONTANA, CA – There are certain games during a season that a football team must win. Last Friday night the Fontana Steelers found themselves in such a game. A win and the Steelers season-long goal of making the CIF playoffs stays alive.

A loss and their goal crashes and dies.

But there would be no crashing, and there would be no dieing as the Steelers defeated the visiting Rialto Eisenhower Eagles, 42-27, in a critical Citrus Belt League match up.

The win keeps the Steelers in stride with Rialto Carter and Yucaipa for the fourth and final CBL playoff spot. And it sets up a big game with the Yucaipa Thunderbirds at Yucaipa on Friday.

“This was big for us,” said Steelers Head Coach, Lance Ozier. “It keeps our playoff hopes alive. Lose and it’s gone.”

The win gives Fontana a 1-3 CBL record (3-4 overall), and ties them with Yucaipa (1-3, 3-4 overall) in fifth place in the eight-team league with three games remaining.

Both Fontana and Yucaipa have the roughest part of their league schedule over as both teams have played the CBL’s top three teams: Redlands, Redlands East Valley, and Fontana A.B. Miller. All three teams are tied for the top spot with 4-0 records.

Remaining on their league schedule and standing in Fontana’s way for the coveted fourth spot is Yucaipa, Rialto Carter (2-2), and Rialto (0-4).

“We talked all week about the need to win four in a row and it had to start tonight,” Ozier said. “Now, it’s one win at a time.”

The offense, which had been averaging 7.6 points per game in CBL play, had an explosive performance with 481 yards total offense. All to the delight of a festive homecoming crowd.

Quarterback, Manuuel Salgado, had his best game of the season, passing for 144 yards on 8-of-9 completions and one touchdown. And he rushed for 95 yards and two scores.

Why the sudden surge in offense? Ozier said that the focus was on getting the ball into the hands of key players. Throughout the game, the Steelers moved junior Palmer Pitts to quarterback, which freed Salgado to showcase his running and receiving skills.

“We said we needed to get the ball to our main guys,” Ozier said. “We needed to get the ball to number eight (Salgado) and (Richard) Thorpe.”

And you can add Kenneth McClain to that mix.

The senior running back continually frustrated the Eagles with his big plays. In the third quarter especially. McClain brought Steelers fans to their feet when he broke free on a zigzagging 95-yard yard touchdown run from the Steelers own 5-yard line. And in the first quarter, McClain caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Salgado that gave the Steelers a 14-0 lead.

Fontana seemed to have the game in hand leading 35-13 with 5:31 left in the third quarter. But the Eagles (0-4 CBL, 0-7) refused to fold. They scored two quick touchdowns to pull within 35-27.

Running back, Donavyn Washington, and wide receiver, Darron Usher, had huge games for Eisenhower. Usher caught three touchdown passes, while Washington proved elusive to stop. Time and again the junior running back slipped out of the grasp of Steelers’ tacklers and reversed field for big games, finishing with 105 yards on 13 carries.

But the Steelers squashed any thoughts of an Eisenhower victory on homecoming night by going on a 19-play drive that culminated with Salgado’s plunge into the end zone with 2:58 left in the game.

Now, Ozier said, the focus will be on Friday’s meeting with the Yucaipa Thunderbirds at Thunderbirds Stadium.

“This is a big one for us," Ozier said. “Yucaipa is kind of like us, a physical type of team. They don’t have a whole lot of athletes, but they are a good, disciplined football team. They run right at you. Yucaipa and us are in the same position fighting for that fourth playoff spot. It’s a really big game.”

Game time 7 p.m. at Yucaipa High School.

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