Fontana Kaiser warms up in the fog and cold with a playoff win over Rim

Written by Bob on November 28th, 2009

Photos & Story By BOB OTTO

LAKE ARROWHEAD, CA – NFL teams such as the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, along with college teams such as the Michigan Wolverines and Wisconsin Badgers thrive and win championships in frigid playing conditions.

And now the Kaiser Cats can be included with that distinguished list of championship-caliber cold weather teams.

The temperature plummeted to a teeth-chattering 25 degrees and a blanket of fog covered the football field at Rim of the World High School on Friday night. But the Cats warmed up considerably after defeating the Rim Fighting Scots, 28-13, in the second round of CIF-SS Eastern Division Playoffs, Friday.


“We were determined when we came up here that the weather would not be a factor,” said Kaiser coach, Phil Zelaya. “You expect this to happen here. I told our kids all week that we can’t control the weather, we just got to play football, and that’s what they did tonight.”

The win sends Kaiser (9-3) into the semi-finals on Saturday, Dec.5, where they will meet Palm Springs (9-2), which defeated Fontana Summit, 33-26.

The game was billed as match up of two of the Inland Empire’s finest running backs, Kaiser’s Anthony Brown, and Rim’s Dillon Pretzinger, who had gained 2,138 yards coming into the game.

Just a week earlier, Pretzinger had rushed for 365 yards and scored five touchdowns in a 49-34 win over San Jacinto. But the Kaiser defense keyed on his every move and held him to 90 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Brown had a splendid game by rushing for 253 yards on 25 carries, and scored one touchdown. But Brown had plenty of help from a stable of talented running backs, and an offensive line that dominated the Fighting Scots – especially in the first quarter when Kaiser scored on its first two possessions.

Kaiser took the opening kick off and in three plays and 68 seconds scored on Jimmy Awolesi’s 34-yard burst around the right side. Then, after Rim was forced to punt on its first possession, quarterback, David Bedran, pushed Kaiser’s lead to 14-0 with a one-yard run up the middle.

Bedran set up his score with a pass over the middle to tight end Josh Shirley, connecting with the 6-foot-4 tight end, who shredded and carried tacklers to the one, where Bedran scored on the first play.

Rim finally got on the scoreboard on a Pretzinger touchdown run late in the first quarter. But back roared Kaiser. The Cats began a six-play drive on their own 20, fueled by Brown, Kindrick Haynes, Awolesi, and Riley Williams.

The foursome chewed up huge chunks of yardage behind an offensive line that opened gaping holes. Williams finally capped the drive by racing up the middle from 33-yards out to give the Cats a 21-7 lead with nine seconds left in the first quarter.

“Our offensive line and our running backs did what they had to do to win this game,” Zelaya said. “In a game like this you put the ball in the playmakers hands, the guys who have done it all season long.”

Then with 9:15 left in the second quarter, the fog rolled in and settled over the entire field. Visibility fell to just a few feet, practically shutting down the passing game, and forcing both teams to run the ball the remainder of the game.

Trailing 21-7 at halftime, Rim took the second half kick off and returned the ball to their own 44. From there, the Fighting Scots ground out an 11-play drive with Pretzinger scoring on a one-yard run.

But Kaiser blocked the point after attempt, and Rim couldn’t move the ball any closer than the Kaiser 34 yard line on its final three possessions.

Brown put the game out of reach with less than four minutes to play on a 31-yard touchdown run in which he disappeared into the fog before emerging again in the end zone.

“I couldn’t see him, but I figured there was a good chance he had scored,” said Zelaya.

As with Zelaya, Rim coach, Bob Gradillas, downplayed the weather conditions for deciding the outcome. Instead he said Kaiser’s early offensive dominance proved too much to overcome. Even for a Rim team averaging 32 points per game.

“Their quick start was the difference,” said Gradillas, whose Fighting Scots (10-2) lost for a third consecutive time in the CIF playoffs to Kaiser. “They got that big lead right away and it’s hard to come back against a team like Kaiser. That was the story of the game.”

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