Photos by Susan Coulter and game info from Harry Joe


The SGV area’s leader in wins, Rio Hondo Prep, added a 12th victory to its 2023 resume on Friday night.

The Kares made the 57-mile drive from Arcadia to Moreno Valley, and they headed home with a 31-14 victory in the semifinal round of the CIF-SS Division 9 playoffs.

After VDL tied the game at 7-7 with 5:54 remaining in the first quarter, RHP would score 24 of the game’s final 31 points.

How does a program from a school with less than 200 students compete and triumph over another that has an enrollment north of 2,000?

They play smart, disciplined and team football.

RHP picked off three VDL passes, while not turning the ball over.

And they had 35 penalty yards as opposed to 80 for the Ravens.

It would be malpractice not to mention the Kares secret weapon in big games: controlling the clock.

Rio Hondo Prep had a 34-13 advantage in the time of possession battle.

Vista del Lago did have a 378-309 edge in total offense.

But RHP outrushed the Ravens, 272-69.

Caeden Holcomb would get the Kares on the board with a 3-yard TD run midway through the first quarter.

As mentioned, the Ravens pulled even at 7-7, as Larry Joyce rumbled into the end zone from 19 yards out.

It was just 33 seconds after the Holcomb TD.

But Rio Hondo Prep regained the lead with a 30-yard TD run from Nathaniel Shine, and Alex Mustain booted a 27-yard field goal with one second to play in the first half.

Noah Penunuri put the game on ice with TD runs of 1 and 32 yards in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

Joyce did find Cameon Sims on a 21-yard TD with 9:21 to play, but it was too little too late for the Ravens.

Penunuri outgained the VDL ground game, 176-69, and did so on 27 carries.

Penunuri also caught a pair of passes from Mustain for 36 yards.

Joyce completed 19-of-33 for 309 yards, including the TD pass to Sims.

But Joyce was picked twice by Josh Curtis and Penunuri had the other.

Sims had eight receptions for 196 yards in the loss.

Nate Curtis had a team-high six tackles, while Andy Xu and Calogero Chico had five tackles apiece.

Nate Curtis carried the ball 12 times for 42 yards.

Up next: The Kares will battle Santa Monica in the D-9 title game.

The Vikings (9-4) defeated Kaiser, 35-21, in their semifinal round contest on Friday.

To view a photo gallery by Susan Coulter, click on the Facebook link here: Facebook

To view a photo gallery by Clarissa Johnson, click on the Facebook link here: Facebook

To view a photo gallery by Tim Lunney, click on the Facebook link here: Facebook


Rio Hondo Prep coach, Mark Carson: “Noah Penunuri had a great night running the ball and he had a huge interception. Josh Curtis had two big time interceptions as well. We’re all happy for our guys, their families and our school.”

Box Score:
RHP: 14-3-7-7-(31)
VDL: 7-0-0-7-(14)

RHP: Caeden Holcomb 3 run (Alex Mustain kick)
VDL: Larry Joyce 19 run (Oscar Colindres kick)
RHP: Nathaniel Shine 30 run (Alex Mustain kick)
RHP: Alex Mustain 27 FG
RHP: Noah Penunuri 1 run (Alex Mustain kick)
RHP: Noah Penunuri 32 run (Alex Mustain kick)
VDL: Cameon Sims 21 pass from Larry Joyce (Oscar Colindres kick)

Records: Rio Hondo Prep (12-1); Vista del Lago (9-4)


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