Christian Hunter

Kaiser’s Christian Hunter leaves an Eisenhower defender behind during the Cats’ 48-40 win in the CIF state playoffs in 2018.  Hunter scored seven touchdowns in the game.

The 2020-2021 school year is under way in Fontana. But because of the coronavirus, it looks a lot different than in previous years.

The pandemic has shut down all in-school activities, which is very sad in so many respects -- including the lack of sports competition.

As a result, while the students are still (hopefully) learning important academic concepts through online instruction, there's one thing that many of them are unfortunately missing out on: excitement. That's what athletics provide.

Over the past decade, prep sports teams in Fontana have recorded numerous thrilling achievements, including several CIF championships and dozens of league titles.

And so, because football (which was supposed to get under way this month) is being pushed back to January by the CIF, we thought it would be fun to fill our present gridiron void by looking back at 10 of the most exciting victories for Fontana teams during the past 10 years.

This is certainly an incomplete list, and I know there will be legitimate disagreement over which games deserve to be mentioned. But in order to enhance the list, the Herald News has produced video highlights of all 10 of these games, which can be seen on YouTube.

So here we go with my countdown of the most exciting football games of the decade (other sports will be featured later):

----- 10. JURUPA HILLS 36, RIO HONDO 29 -- CIF PLAYOFFS, 2019:

Jurupa Hills High School, which opened exactly 10 years ago, has enjoyed remarkable success in football ever since. In 2019, the Spartans earned a tie for the league title and advanced into the second round of the CIF playoffs, where they squared off against previously undefeated Rio Hondo Prep. In a wild, back-and-forth battle, the Spartans rallied from a 29-22 deficit to tie the score in the fourth quarter. Then with 1:44 remaining, quarterback Eric Marinez plunged over the goal line from 1 yard out to give Jurupa Hills a 36-29 triumph. See video highlights at: https://youtu.be/lVvB6d-6Xfg

----- 9. KAISER 28, GRAND TERRACE 21 -- 2018:

Kaiser, which has been a CIF powerhouse ever since opening in 1999, tangled with Grand Terrace in the 2018 climactic regular season finale which determined the Sunkist League championship. Kaiser moved out to a 28-7 lead thanks to the rushing of Christian Hunter and the passing of Trey Tribble, but Grand Terrace rallied to cut the deficit to 28-21 in the fourth quarter and had one last opportunity to drive in for a tying touchdown in the final minutes. However, a key sack by Kaiser's Joey Trejo pushed the opponents back, and the Cats held on for their 13th league crown in 18 years. See video highlights at: https://youtu.be/69f2sjXkmHs

----- 8. FONTANA A.B. MILLER 30, FONTANA 28 -- 2014:

Miller and Fohi have had an intense intra-city rivalry over the years, resulting in lots of dramatic matchups, and the 2014 duel was one of the most spectacular of the bunch. The Steelers played well throughout most of the contest, taking a 28-14 lead thanks to touchdowns by Gerson Diaz and Myles Saler in the second half. But with 3:23 remaining, Miller scored on a 2-yard run by Steven Caro to pull within 28-22. After recovering an onside kick, Miller marched in for another TD as quarterback Malik Flowers connected with Dashawn Faison on a 19-yard pass with just 32 seconds left to tie the score. On the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, Mark Radgowski blasted into the end zone and Miller pulled out a wild 30-28 triumph. See video highlights at: https://youtu.be/6j-j0BS81NQ

----- 7. FONTANA 35, MILLER 29 -- 2017

The two local rivals met in another thriller in 2017, and this time Fohi built a huge lead and was able to hold on for a dramatic win. Levonte Cornish, the Steelers' running back, scored four touchdowns in the first quarter (one on a 99-yard kickoff return) to help spark his team to a 35-7 halftime lead. Miller stormed back as QB Nick Kennedy fired two touchdown passes to Christian Rojas in the fourth quarter, making the score 35-29. Miller then recovered an onside kick and marched into Fohi territory in the final minutes. However, Fontana linebacker Oscar Garcia forced a fumble and Everado Ruiz recovered it, preserving the victory for the Steelers. See video highlights at: https://youtu.be/DFaaD2jHAfE

----- 6. KAISER 48, EISENHOWER 40 -- STATE PLAYOFFS, 2018:

In the fall of 2018, the Cats won the CIF Southern Section title and advanced for the first time into the state playoffs, where they faced undefeated Eisenhower in the 3-A Division Southern California regional championship game. Eisenhower had an explosive passing attack, but the Cats had something even better: Christian Hunter, the state's leading rusher. In one of the greatest individual performances in the history of football in Fontana, Hunter gained 331 yards in 27 carries and scored all seven of the Cats' touchdowns. His last TD came on a 70-yard dash in the fourth quarter, giving Kaiser a 48-32 lead. The Eagles came right back to cut the margin to 48-40, but the Cats were able to run out the clock. See video highlights of Hunter's TDs at: https://youtu.be/QQmFLQ2z1wk

See next week's edition of the Herald News (Sept. 4) to continue the countdown with the top five most exciting football games of the past decade in Fontana.

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