Rancho Cucamonga routs Redlands in season opener

It took the Rancho Cucamonga High School football team one drive to shake off the rust. If there is any more to shake off, the rest of the Inland Division should be worried.

After falling behind 3-0, the No. 2 team in the CIF-SS Inland Division poll ran away with a 40-17 win over No. 7 Redlands on Friday.

The Cougars quickly took the air out of what was billed as a significant early season matchup as their new cast of offensive characters showed out and the touted defense delivered. Quarterback Adam Friederichsen, who transferred from La Costa Canyon during the summer, finished 14 of 23 passing for 157 yards and three touchdowns, most of which were compiled in a first half Rancho Cucamonga finished with a 21-3 lead.

The Cougars’ sophomore running back duo of Khalil Muhammad and Kiraun Mayo combined for 207 yards on 23 carries filling in admirably for senior Tyan Washington, who is out for at least the first half of the season after breaking his foot last week. The bruising Mayo’s 5-yard touchdown run, his second score of the night, gave Rancho Cucamonga a 34-3 lead with 10:03 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“We knew (Muhammad and Mayo) were good players, but we didn’t know exactly what to expect in their first varsity game,” Rancho Cucamonga coach Nick Baiz said. “They played well and our whole offense played really well.”

The Rancho Cucamonga defense featuring at least four Division I players had allowed Redlands just 122 yards at halftime and 198 through three quarters. UCLA-bound running back Craig Lee finished with 80 yards on 20 carries and didn’t score Redlands’ first touchdown until 5:44 remained in the game.

Redlands quarterback Jimmy Walker completed just 4 of his first 14 passes for 58 yards before a late run helped him collect 154 yards on the night. “We knew their offense was going to be a handful,” Baiz said. “Our defense played OK. We think we can do better.”

The vaunted Rancho Cucamonga defense featuring USC-bound cornerback Chris Hawkins and Tahaan Goodman, who is the No. 2 safety in the country according to rivals.com, appeared in for a test when Redlands drove its first possession 86 yards. But the Cougars stiffened up inside their 10-yard line and held Redlands to a 25-yard field goal.

It didn’t take long for Rancho Cucamonga to establish dominance by driving 80 yards for a touchdown before turning a Redlands mistake into a 14-3 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. Oregon State-bound receiver Jermel Walker hauled in the first touchdown pass from Friederichsen at the 11:48 mark of the second quarter to give Rancho Cucamonga a 7-3 lead.

After Redlands’ quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 from its own 30-yard line was stuffed, the Cougars scored on the next play to take a 14-3 advantage with its second touchdown in a one-minute span. Mayo scored his first touchdown with 25 seconds left in the first half to cap a two-minute, 20-second, 82-yard drive and drop Redlands into a 21-3 hole.

Redlands continued to gamble as the Cougars’ lead grew, going for it on fourth down only to turn the ball over on downs for the third time, this at the Rancho Cucamonga 47-yard line. The Cougars pieced together a nine-play touchdown drive finished off by Ralston Compton’s second touchdown reception from Friederichsen for a 27-3 lead with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter.

“Back there under fire for the first time, we didn’t know how (Friederichsen) was going to handle it,” Baiz said. “But we’re very happy with the way he played. You just never know when it’s the first time their seeing live action like this.”