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Placer presses on to title game

After holding off Dixon, Hillmen earn rematch with Whitney Friday night in Folsom
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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DIXON – Nothing’s come easy for the Placer High football team this season. It took a court order at the final hour just to get the Hillmen into the playoffs. A monumental upset of Oakdale last week gave Placer its first playoff victory in eight seasons. On Friday night, the Hillmen held off Dixon for a 24-21 victory, earning an improbable trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game. Placer last played in the section final in 1981, when coach Joey Montoya’s grandfather Bill Miller was the team’s co-coach. “It’s amazing,” said Placer senior Brad Moller, who helped the Hillmen hold Dixon to just 59 rushing yards on 33 carries. “I never thought I’d get here from all that we’ve been through. It’s just amazing and it’s great for Placer. It puts us back where we want to be.” The Hillmen will face undefeated Whitney for the section title after the Wildcats beat Sierra 51-28 Friday night in Rocklin. The title game will be played Friday night at Folsom High School at 7:30 p.m. Placer (8-4) used a superb first half to oust Dixon, but they had to survive a sloppy second half. Rams quarterback Jeffrey Anderson threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robby Coates with 1 minute, 41 seconds left in the game, putting the 1,000-plus Placer fans on the edge of their seats after the Hillmen had enjoyed a comfortable 24-7 halftime lead. But Asher Gotzmer pounced on the ensuing onside kick and Placer drained the clock, setting off a wild celebration on Dixon’s new grass field. A bad snap on a punt led to a third-quarter touchdown for Dixon. A fourth-quarter fumble gave the Rams a prime opportunity for another score, but Placer’s defense held strong after Dixon had first down and goal at the 4-yard line. “I felt like we gave them every chance to win it in the second half,” Montoya said. “But despite all the adversity again, our kids fought through it. I could not be more proud of them.” After the Rams marched down the field for a touchdown on their first drive of the game, the Hillmen took over. Cameron Southward booted a 36-yard field goal on Placer’s first possession. After forcing a three-and-out, the Hillmen got the ball back and senior Jake Lopez took off down the right Rams’ sideline for a 58-yard touchdown run. Placer snuffed out a promising Dixon drive early in the second quarter, but was forced to punt on its next possession. Lopez was there to make another big play. After senior Jordan Arndt got his hand on an Anderson pass, Lopez was there to grab the deflection. He took the ball 37 yards the other way to give Placer a 17-7 lead. “Jordan came up and got the tip and then he gave me a beautiful block,” Lopez said. After forcing another three-and-out, Placer again struck with the big play. Quarterback Matt Ross found Gotzmer open down the right sideline and the junior caught the 33-yard touchdown catch despite a penalty for defensive pass interference on the play. Gotzmer finished with 94 rushing yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 60 yards. Lopez rushed for a game-high 111 yards on 10 carries. Junior Josh Klem had a spectacular interception in the third quarter and was sensational on defense all night. Seth Parrish had a huge sack in the second quarter and Moller was a disruptive force all night. Placer’s defense emerged as a savior once again after many had questioned the Hillmen’s ability to stop the opposition earlier this season. After posting a 3-7 record last season in Montoya’s first season as coach, Placer will play for its sixth section title in his second year. “We knew we had a great group of kids coming back,” Montoya said. “They have such a strong bond and our seniors and juniors have really connected this year. That’s been a big part of our success.”