TEMECULA — What started out as a difficult week for Vista Murrieta High's football team came to a rather triumphant end Friday night.
Junior running back-linebacker Su'a Cravens rushed for three touchdowns, junior quarterback Nick Stevens ran for 118 yards and a score, and the Broncos scored 24 unanswered, second-half points en route to a 45-24 victory over host Great Oak.
During the same week that the Broncos (3-5, 3-0) forfeited five nonleague victories for using an ineligible player, they picked up a satisfying league win on a field that has historically been their house of struggle.
"We came out and we had a lot to prove and a lot of adversity," said Cravens, who ran 10 times for 74 yards. "We had a chip on our shoulder. This whole week, though, we never had our heads down."
And then came their good news Friday morning, when Vista Murrieta athletic director Ray Moore said the previously ineligible player — senior cornerback Larry Parrish — was granted a hardship waiver and had his eligibility reinstated.
Parrish played some in the second half, and by that time the Broncos had established superiority in a game Great Oak fought hard to stay in. Vista Murrieta led 21-10 at halftime, but saw its lead cut to 21-17 when Wolfpack junior running back Jakob Certeza scored on a 37-yard touchdown run with 8:09 left in the third quarter. Certeza rushed 41 times for 219 yards and two scores.
Senior kicker Tyler Rausa extended Vista Murrieta's lead to 24-17 on the next possession, and Great oak got the ball back with a chance to tie.
"At that point," Great Oak coach Robbie Robinson said, "I felt pretty good about things."
And Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele was reminded of years past, when the Broncos walked on to the Great Oak turf as a heavy favorite but were pushed to overtime in a 2007 victory and had the game come down to the final play before winning in 2009.
"They always play a great game against us," Candaele said, "and tonight was no different."
Unfortunately for the Wolfpack (4-4, 1-2), it seemed they peaked with the score 24-17. Great Oak came up empty on its next three possessions, while Cravens, senior running back Aaron Piecukonis and junior running back Kei-Ron Long countered each of those drives with touchdown runs of 25, 24, and 8 yards, respectively.
Perhaps no one was happier than Parrish, whose confusing transcript from Georgia led to the Broncos discovering before league play that he was technically in his ninth semester and had to report the issue to the Southern Section.
"I got a lot of support from my teammates, my coaches and the community," Parrish said after Friday's game. "Everybody was supportive — the week went smoothly for me."