Scotts Valley High's defense swarms swarms to Santa Cruz High running back Malakai Ross-Graves during their non-leagu game on Aug. 26, 2022. (Raul Ebio - The Pajaronian)

The Scotts Valley High football team’s newly reconstructed defense had its first challenge in last week’s season opener against Santa Cruz High.

Senior defensive back Brady Siechen and Falcons were more than up to task after recording a 17-0 shutout win over the Cardinals in non-league action Aug. 26.

“They all just learned, got this thing correct right away and came ready to play. Locked in,” Siechen said. 

Scotts Valley’s defense—featuring 10 new starters—was able to contain Myles Reber, Malakai Ross-Graves, Franz Pohlmann and the rest of the Cardinals offense to less than 100 yards. 

“Santa Cruz is a good football team and we worried all week long because of the weapons they have,” Scotts Valley coach Louie Walters said. 

Santa Cruz starting quarterback Niko Smutzer connected with his receivers on a couple of good throws, however, he was constantly pressured and sacked three times by the Falcons’ stifling defense.  

Smutzer completed 6 of 10 pass attempts for 66 yards.  

“I thought our defense played well, we kind of bent but we didn’t break,” Walters said. 

Siechen said they expected a good fight and just wanted to come out to play Scotts Valley-type football.

“We had some blitzes going, they were working well and our secondary was clamping up,” he said. “Their passing game, we heard, was pretty strong but we jumped on some of their passes, knocked them down and we were good to go.”

Scotts Valley (1-0) had beaten Santa Cruz (0-1) in 15-straight contests until last year’s 35-9 loss at home. 

Siechen remembers there was trouble looming within the locker room prior to the game and they had just lost their starting quarterback. He said this win felt like redemption.

“We came back and wanted to get it back, and that’s exactly what we did,” Siechen said.

Junior defensive back Blake LaRiviere made the defensive play of the game that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

In the first quarter, Smutzer pitched the ball to the receiver but it went off the right shoulder, causing the ball to bounce straight up in the air.

“I was like, ‘This is my time.’ I grabbed it, ran to the closest pylon I could see,” La Riviere said. “I saw a guy chasing me and I was like, ‘Please don’t catch me.’” 

LaRiviere outran the flock of Cardinals and dove into the end zone for what turned out to be the turning point.

LaRiviere said they spent the entire week preparing for a rematch against Santa Cruz, which beat the Falcons for the first time since 2004.

“It was a big game, a lot of fans, season opener, so it sets the tone for the rest of the year,” he said. 

LaRiviere said the game plan was to drive into opposing players instead of going around blocks, forcing the play to go the middle of the field rather than the open field.

LaRiviere expected the Cardinals to be physical and intensely competitive throughout the entire 48 minutes.

“We just had to match that. If we did that, we win the game,” he said. 

Walters said they also had some big plays on offense, commending players such as LaRiviere, Siechen, Nico Iles and Tristan Roure.

“We have a two-headed monster with Niko [Iles] and Brady [Siechen]. That’s a good little two-punch combo,” Walters said. 

Niko Iles finished with 66 yards on 11 carries, while Roure had one reception for 34 yards that set the Falcons up in good field position. 

Siechen had 78 yards on 12 carries and a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave Scotts Valley a 14-0 lead going into halftime.

Senior quarterback Cole Leonard completed 2-of-4 pass attempts for 34 yards and backup sophomore quarterback Lucas Ringel completed 3-of-5 pass attempts for 33 yards. Junior receiver Quinn Turowski had two receptions for 27 yards.

“Our goal is to win one game and then next week our goal is to win one more,” Walters said. 

Getting a season opening victory was extra special for not just the Scotts Valley football program but it was for the community, as well.

The Falcons dedicated the season to Carlton Keegan, a former teammate who died in a car accident in April. 

The team put Keegan’s jersey up in the locker room and they’ll wear a No. 50 decal on their helmets to honor their fallen comrade.

“His parents came out here to show support because that was just his life, he loved football,” Siechen said. “He was going to go play football at a college and his life got cut short. We just try to honor him the best we can.”

Blake LaRiviere said wearing the No. 50 decal on his helmet means the world to him because Keegan did a lot for the school and was a father-figure to a lot of people. 

“To have it on your helmet, it feels like he’s watching over you and you just have like an angel on your shoulder type of thing,” he said.

Next up, the Falcons will play at rival San Lorenzo Valley High on Saturday at 2pm. 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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