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Citrus Hill and Rancho Verde football teams continue district rivalry

By in Press Enterprise on September 15, 2017

By Eric-Paul Johnson

Nothing seems to bring out the best in football teams quite like an old-fashioned district rivalry.

Citrus Hill and Rancho Verde, members of the Val Verde Unified School District, didn’t meet on the football field until 2014, but this quickly became one of the Inland area’s more intense rivalries. The programs met twice in 2014 and 2015, once in the regular season and again during the playoffs.

“These kids all know each other because they attended the same middle school or played together on the same youth football teams growing up,” said Citrus Hill coach Eric Zomalt, whose program holds a 3-2 edge in the rivalry series. “I don’t think either team has a problem getting up for this game.”

Rancho Verde coach Jeff Steinberg agreed, saying close outcomes adds to the intrigue of this game. The first four clashes were decided by seven points or fewer, and one game went to double overtime.

“Even last year was a pretty tight battle,” Steinberg said, referring to Rancho Verde’s 35-24 win. “Everybody gets extremely excited for this one, and that makes it a real fun game to be a part of.”

Zomalt and Steinberg also agree the team that can set the tempo early on will have the advantage.

Citrus Hill will try to slow things down on offense, using senior Jonathan Jefferson in a makeshift Wildcat formation. Jefferson has rushed for 402 yards and 10 touchdowns on 71 carries in three games. Sophomores Peteli Mikaele and Earl Estell have been Citrus Hill’s other running threats this season.

“We pretty much rolled out that offense out last season after the loss to Rancho Verde,” Zomalt said. “Jonathan has a better understanding of what we’re asking of him, and we’re having success with it.”

Rancho Verde, on the other hand, will look to speed the game up with its familiar […]    

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