Photos by Susan Coulter & Clarissa Johnson, & game info from Harry Joe
With Friday’s 22-13 victory at Orange High School in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-SS Division 9 playoffs, Rio Hondo Prep now leads the entire San Gabriel Valley with 11 wins in 2023.
The Panthers got out to a 7-0 lead less than four minutes in, as Wesley Lundell caught a 22-yard TD pass from Hype Grand.
RHP answered back early in the second quarter when Nate Curtis rumbled in from eight yards out.
Noah Penunuri’s 2-point run gave the Kares an 8-7 lead.
Orange needed just 90 seconds to regain the advantage.
The Panthers’ Ardwon Morris scored on a 14-yard run.
Rio Hondo Prep’s defense, however, would keep Orange scoreless in the second half.
Caeden Holcomb scored on a 1-yard TD run midway through the third quarter and RHP took a 15-13 lead.
Penunuri’s 38-yard TD run with 4:18 remaining was the dagger.
Orange actually had advantages over RHP in first downs (14-12), total offense (267-242) and time of possession (25:18-19:30).
But the Panthers lost a fumble and had 13 penalties levied against them for 90 yards, while the Kares were flagged just twice for 20 yards.
Rio Hondo Prep finished with 214 yards rushing to 192 for the Panthers.
Penunuri had a team-high 100 yards on 16 carries and Curtis gained 91 yards on 14 carries.
Penunuri finished with a game-high 11 tackles, Andy Xu had eight, and Holcomb totaled seven tackles in Friday’s win.
Morris led all running backs with 152 yards on 28 carries for Orange.
Grand completed 5-of-15 for 75 yards and was picked once, and he rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries.
Josh Curtis had a huge game on defense for RHP.
Curtis recovered a fumble, and then, on Orange’s final possession of the game, he picked off Grand and brought it back 68 yards.
Curtis could have gone in for the 70-yard pick-six, but he wanted Rio Hondo Prep to have the opportunity to take a knee and run the game clock out.
His brother, Nate Curtis, had nine tackles.
Up next: RHP travels to Moreno Valley next week to battle Vista Del Lago.
The Phantoms (9-3) defeated Sonora, 21-7, on Thursday night.
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
RHP coach, Mark Carson: “Our front seven had a good night keeping their playmakers in check for the most part. Josh Taflinger, Caeden Holdomb, Andy Xu, Rainn Pollock, and Cologoro Chico all balled. The defensive player of the night was Josh Curtis who had a fumble recovery and an interception to seal the game. I thought our guys competed like crazy and didn’t let doubt creep in despite falling behind. It was a complete team victory.”
O: Wesley Lundell 22 pass from Hype Grand (Isaac Velazquez kick)
RHP: Nate Curtis 8 run (Noah Penunuri run)
O: Ardwon Morris 14 run (run failed)
RHP: Caeden Holcomb 1 run (Alex Mustain kick)
RHP: Noah Penunuri 38 run (Alex Mustain kick)
Records: Rio Hondo Prep (11-1); Orange (7-5)