By JOSEPH QUESADA
The Citrus Valley High School football team finished the 2019 season with a 10-2 record—the highest win total in school history. Images taken at Citrus Valley’s home non-conference game against Valley View High School wherein the Blackhawks secured a win of 35-0 on Aug. 30, 2019. (Emily Walos / Ethic Photo)
Blackhawk football received the leadership and guidance it needed in 2017 when Coach Kurt Bruich transferred over from Redlands East Valley High School to assume the role of Citrus Valley High School’s head varsity coach. The culture in the Blackhawk locker room was immediately invigorated and it transferred well onto the field.
Coach Bruich instilled the virtues of hard work, team bonding and feisty competitiveness among the players. Safety and outside linebacker, Jake Acuna, stated that “there was a lot more bonding as time progressed; we all became closer and the chemistry was there.”
Acuna said that Coach Bruich “made it more of a brotherhood than it already was; it was more like a family and we always prioritized winning.”
Senior receiver and defensive back, Jordan Scott, had one word to describe the atmosphere that Coach Bruich brought to Citrus: “intense.” Scott also explained the impact that Coach Bruich had on the players. Scott said, “[Bruich] made us come together closer as brothers” as “putting in that work everyday with those guys beside you definitely brings you all closer together.”
Citrus Valley finished 7-4 in their first year with Coach Bruich at the helm, making it their first winning season since 2011 according to MaxPreps. The impressive 2018 win total was just a glimpse into what was to come for the following year.
Citrus Valley opened the 2019 season in an impressive fashion, going undefeated through the first eight games and establishing themselves at the top of the Citrus Belt League. The Blackhawks weren’t just scraping by either. The team had a total of four shutout games and five 30+ point wins in that span alone. Their undefeated reign featured impressive wins that included a 47-8 upset against Silverado in week four and a 56-7 blowout against Yucaipa High in week six.
Citrus Valley’s only loss of the regular season came against Cajon High School in week nine—a game that many thought that even the Blackhawks couldn’t pull off. Coach Bruich voiced the uncertainty among the players going into this tough division matchup that “deep down, I don’t know if at first our kids really believed that they could play with Cajon.”
This game would put the victor on top of the Citrus Belt league, and the division three Cajon Cowboys were all but sure to win against the division six Blackhawks.
Citrus Valley put up a strong fight and trailed 26-20 at the final seconds of the 4th quarter. In a last ditch effort, quarterback Dylan Wheatly lobbed a high pass in the back corner of the end zone to receiver Jordan Scott before Scott and the defensive back in coverage went stumbling to the ground with the ball still in the air.
A questionable no-call by onlooking referees left Citrus players, coaches and fans alike fuming for an explanation to an absent pass interference call that would have given Citrus Valley another chance to score. Regardless of the 26-20 loss, the Blackhawks were content with the fact that they kept up with a league rival that was slated to run away with the win.
Coach Bruich was more than proud of his team’s performance and said that “as the game went on, our boys knew they were every bit as good as [Cajon].”
Bruich also said, “The confidence was there, and even though we weren’t able to score that final touchdown to win the game, at the end of the day our kids knew that our program had arrived, and that we can really play with anyone in our league.”
Citrus Valley finished off the season with a statement 35-0 win over Redlands East Valley High School. The Blackhawks entered CIF playoffs with a record of 9-1, which is the best regular season total since 2011 and a two win improvement from the year before.
The Blackhawks dominated Silverado High School in the first round of the CIFSS playoffs, ending the game 55-21. The next round of the playoffs saw a much tougher match for Citrus Valley when they traveled over 3 hours to face off against Pacifica High School in Oxnard, California. The Pacifica Tritons overwhelmed the Blackhawks with a 55-28 game and ended Citrus Valley’s season.
The first two years of Coach Bruich’s tenure at Citrus Valley has proved to be successful, especially when considering that under his leadership the Blackhawks have won the most games in school history. Citrus Valley will lose a few key players on both sides of the ball come next fall, but they look to regroup and continue to dominate in the upcoming 2020 season.