Rubio’s Run Lifts Wildcats Over Lancers


Diana Lee

Varsity football takes the field before the game against Sunny Hills High School. The Wildcats won the back-and-forth game against the Lancers, 40-37, on senior Andrew Rubio’s go-ahead touchdown run in the final 25 seconds of the game.

Down 28-18 at halftime against the Sunny Hills Lancers, then ranked number 21 in Orange County, and their relentless running game on Sept. 10, Aidan Arnold, senior, entered the Wildcats’ locker room uncertain of the outcome.    

“So many different emotions like, are we gonna lose it, are we gonna win?“ Arnold said. “But we pulled through.” 

And pull through they did, outscoring Sunny Hills 22-9 in the second half, and sealing the comeback win with an Andrew Rubio touchdown — his fourth of the game — in the final 25 seconds. As Rubio crossed the goal line, the Den erupted with cheers, explosions of silly string, clouds of green chalk dust, and swaying pom poms.

The final score: 40-37. It was the Wildcats’ first win over the Lancers in over eight years. 

Andrew Rubio, senior, runs for the end zone ahead of a Sunny Hills defender as quarterback Justus Thongphrachanh anticipates the game-winning touchdown. Courtesy of Marissa Arnold

Wes Nelson, senior wide receiver, was proud of his team for coming out on top in the back-and-forth contest. “We were predicted to lose, so us winning really showed how we’re the underdogs, and we really just took it” to Sunny Hills in the second half, Nelson said.

Rubio, returning from an elbow injury that hampered his junior season, dominated on the ground, rushing for a career-high 210 yards on 28 carries. 

“I came back to the sideline, [and] everyone was cheering me on, tapping me on the helmet, giving me congratulations. It felt really good,” Rubio said.

While Rubio was dominant on the ground, the Wildcats’ passing game also contributed to the win. Justus Thongphrachanh, senior, once again cracked 200 yards in the air, with 230 yards on 20 completions. Axl Rodriguez, senior, hauled in seven passes for 77 yards, and Roman Meraz, junior, grabbed four passes for 69 yards and one touchdown, his second straight game with a TD. 

“I just [had] faith in our team, in our [offensive] line, and we were going to do it. I was just confident that we were going to get the job done,” Thongphrachanh, added.

Despite the win, the Wildcats suffered from a seesaw of points during the third and fourth quarter. The myriad of points left the crowd uncertain of the final score.

Adian Arnold, senior, was a force on defense, with ten solo, and seven assisted, tackles. The Wildcats defense held the Landers’ star running back, junior David Mahood, to 139 yards, 11 yards below his season average.

The Wildcats’ victory earned the Wildcats a spot on the Orange County Register’s top 25 at number 22. 

“We’ve been waiting for this for over a year now,” Meraz said after the game as he looked from the field to the Den in what was the Wildcats’ first home game of the season. “So just coming back to our home stadium, having everyone here again, it’s definitely a big help for us.”

Next up for the Wildcats is Friday night’s Homecoming game against local rival Fullerton High School. Fullerton High School is 1-3 overall, and coming off their first win, a 35-0 shutout against Santa Fe High School on Sept. 10.

Wildcat Stadium gates open at 5:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. kick-off.