Update at 10 a.m.: Heritage High School football standout McKinley Grant is home from the hospital and doing well. According to coach Kraig Broach, X-rays, CT scan and all other tests were normal. Grant went down with what appeared to be a neck injury in Friday night's Menifee Bowl game, but he was conscious and was moving his arms in a "thumbs up" sign as he was taken off the field.
In the end, the Paloma Valley High School defense couldn't stop Heritage High's version of the Bash Brothers.
Running backs Limihai Hifo and Sione Takitaki actually are cousins, but they consider themselves brothers in spirit. Friday night, they were driving the Patriots' offensive bulldozer, with Isaiah Morrow riding shotgun and offensive tackle Niko Gomez out front, clearing obstacles in the road.
The result was 460 yards total offense for Heritage, which broke open a tight game midway through the contest to score a 48-25 victory over Paloma Valley in the Menifee Bowl crosstown rivalry game.
Moments later, Hifo scored on a 2-yard run for a 27-18 halftime lead. The Patriots never looked back, handing Paloma Valley (7-1, 2-1) its first loss of the season and improving their own record to 7-1 and 3-0 in the Sunbelt League.
Not only did Heritage improve its record to 4-0 in Menifee Bowl showdowns, the Patriots remained unbeaten in league play over the last four seasons at 18-0.
"We knew Paloma was going to be good on passing, but we decided we were gonna stop 'em a little bit," said Hifo, who had two interceptions to go along with his 171 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing. "In the second half we just came out with a bang, and that was about it."
Boehm completed 20 of 36 passes for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns for Paloma Valley, and sophomore running back Demarco Prewitt rushed for 101 yards and 2 TDs. But once Heritage began establishing control and taking advantage of Wildcat turnovers, a close game turned a bit one-sided.
"We had some success running the ball," said Heritage coach Kraig Broach. "I have to go back to how our O line was executing against a very good Paloma Valley team. It was scary there for a while. It was body blow after body blow early in the game. I thought defensively we did a good job of just hanging in there and focusing in on our assignment as the game wore on. I was very proud of that."
Sophomore quarterback Brett Virgil directed the Heritage offense effectively, rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown himself.
Paloma Valley scored first, putting together an 80-yard drive on the game's first possession to score on an 8-yard run by Prewitt. Derek Davis' PAT kick was wide, however, so the Wildcats settled for a 6-0 lead.
It didn't last long. The Patriots came right back with a scoring drive capped by Takitaki's 32-yard TD run. Kyle Hernandez's PAT kick gave Heritage a 7-6 lead.
For a while, it seemed as though neither team would give up the ball without scoring. Paloma regained the lead at 12-7 on a 1-yard run by Prewitt. Then Heritage took it back at 14-12 on a 1-yard run by Hifo. Paloma Valley responded with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Boehm to RJ Benz for an 18-14 lead. Heritage fought right back with another scoring drive, capped by Takitaki's 5-yard TD run.
Then came the first turnover of the game -- a costly one. Boehm's long pass downfield on third down was intercepted by Hifo deep in Heritage territory and returned all the way to the Paloma Valley 22. Three plays later, Hifo scored on a 2-yard run for a 27-18 lead.
"They were scoring and we needed something going our way defensively," Broach said. "I think that really turned things. We were able to score and get up on them a bit, so I think that was a turning point."
Heritage linebacker McKinley Grant suffered an injury in the fourth quarter and remained down on the field for several minutes while medical staff attended to him. He was taken off in an ambulance. According to Broach, it appeared he suffered a neck injury, but he was able to move his limbs and never lost consciousness.
As a capacity crowd on both sides of the stadium filed out into the night, Takitaki summed up the feelings of the Patriot players.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm just happy me and my team came out and played the way we did. I can't wait to celebrate, man."
|A happy Heritage High coach Kraig Broach congratulates his players after the game.|
|Paloma Valley running back Demarco Prewitt finished with 101 yards and 2 touchdowns.|
|Limiahi Hifo of Heritage was the game's leading rusher with 171 yards and 2 touchdowns.|
|Sione Takitaki hangs onto the ball despite a defender's attempt to take it away.|
|Isaiah Morrow's 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter struck a big blow for the Patriots.|
|Paloma Valley quarterback Brent Boehm tries to get around the corner in the second half.|
|Phillip Hauser hauls in a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 41-25.|
|Limiahi Hifo leaps to grab his second interception of the night early in the fourth quarter.|
|Heritage's McKinley Grant raises his arms in salute to his teammates and the crowd as he is taken off the field.|
|Chris Nile gathers in a touchdown pass from Brett Virgil in the third quarter.|
|The scoreboard tells the story at the end of the game as players gather at midfield.|