Andover Central receiver Kolten Holinde scored the first touchdown of his high school career, and then his second, and ended the night with a whopping 151 yards on six catches.
But the Jaguars’ feel-good story of the night was almost wiped out by a furious comeback from Valley Center, which scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns 15 seconds apart before falling 25-19 in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
It was another heartbreaking loss for Hornets coach Pat Haxton, who fell to 1-18 starting his third season with Valley Center.
“They just made a couple more plays than we did,” Haxton said. “We have some things we need to correct, but give Andover Central credit.”
The Jaguars scored all four touchdowns off passes from new quarterback Blake Meier, who completed 10 of 16 throws for 177 yards and one interception.
Down 25-7 in the fourth quarter, Valley Center running back Justin Holdaway charged in on a first-and-goal from the eight to get the Hornets within 12.
On the ensuing kickoff, Andover Central’s Cireece Smith was trying to make something happen on the return and fumbled the ball into the hands of a Valley Center player, who returned it 12 yards for another touchdown to get the Hornets within six.
Haxton was tickled to learn after the game that the touchdown was scored by a 5-foot-7, 174-pound sophomore defensive lineman named Jed Elliott.
“I can’t say enough about how hard the kids played,” Haxton said.
Central was able to eat three minutes off the clock – Meier’s first-down scramble on a third-and-four helped the Jaguars do that – and with two minutes left Valley Center took over at its own 24. Four downs later, Corbin Niemtschk sacked Valley Center quarterback Braden Tormey, essentially ending the game.
Tormey was intercepted twice, but the Hornets out-rushed the Jaguars 124 yards to 56.
On its first series, Valley Center earned four first downs before missing a 38-yard field goal.
After going three and out on its first series, Central found the end zone on its second. Facing a second-and-17, Holinde made a beautiful fingertip catch streaking down the right sideline and took it in for a 56-yard touchdown, putting the Jaguars up 6-0 with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
“It was incredible,” Holinde said. “Blake put the ball exactly where it needed to be.”
After Valley Center punted to begin the second quarter, Holdaway, playing linebacker, grabbed an interception and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown and a 7-6 lead.
It was another interception, this one by Central defensive back Zach Schulte, that set up another Jaguars touchdown to end the first half. A 19-yard pass to Holinde helped the Jaguars complete a 40-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown reception by his cousin, Cameron Hurley.
The Jaguars led 12-7 at halftime.
Central put together a 10-play, 72-yard drive to start the second left, capped off by Holinde’s touchdown catch in the left corner of the end zone that put the Jaguars up 18-7.
“Again, that pass was right where it needed to be,” Holinde said.
Central kicked off, then Schulte managed to recover the ball on the Valley Center 16 after a Hornet touched it. On a fourth-and-eight from the 14, Meier threw a touchdown pass to Alex List that gave the Jaguars their 25-7 lead.