The talk all year has been of Nipomo’s defense. The defense rose to the occasion once again Friday night, stifling Twentynine Palm’s offense in a 17-14 thriller.
Coming into Friday’s game, the Wildcats were averaging 43 points and had an 11-0 record. But they left with their first loss and only managed a touchdown in each half.
With 3:32 left in the fourth, Twentynine Palms started its drive at its own 20-yard line. The drive stalled at its own 45, when Nipomo stonewalled Wildcats’ quarterback Jimmy Shragge on fourth-and-3, giving Gavin Hall and the offense a chance to win the game.
“They hadn’t played any team as good as us and our strength of schedule is pretty high,” linebacker Terry Wambolt said. “We played teams like AG and Atascadero; they were good preparation for for a team like (Twentynine Palms).”
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Nipomo forced three turnovers — two interceptions, and a fumble recovery which was returned for a touchdown by J.J. Ramirez.
Spencer Pool had one interception, and Clemente Ramiscal had another in the redzone for the Titans.
“(Shragge) only threw two picks all year, I’ve been telling our boys we were going to double that,” coach Tony Dodge said. “That was the whole plan. Stuff their run game. Force them to pass. That’s what we did and it worked.”
Senior linebacker Ramiscal was named “Defensive MVP” after the game by Dodge. He was the first to the ball on the fourth-and-3, stopping Shragge from turning the corner and picking up a first down.
“He didn’t want it to end,” Dodge said. “He played awesome. All the props in the world to Clem.”
Ramirez, usually a backup running back, filled in for starting safety Isaac Bausley, who broke his hand. He did so admirably, returning the fumble for a touchdown and returned several punts to set the Titans up with excellent field position.
“J.J.’s a super athletic guy. One of the best runners on the team for sure,” Wambolt said. “It would have been nice to have Isaac, (but Ramirez) got the job done and I can’t argue with that.”
The Titans will play Linfield Christian at home on Saturday at 6 p.m.