Trailing 24-10, Grossmont High School took inspiration from Ron Murphy—the school’s late coach—and won its football opener 28-24 over host Ramona on Friday night.
Junior quarterback Anthony Lawrence said of his Hillers: “We started out slow, but then we picked it up. We realized what we had to do for Coach Murphy,” who died of skin cancer in February after four years at the helm.
New Grossmont coach Tom Karlo, who gave the game ball to Luke Murphy—a son who remains the team statistician—said: “The team wants to dedicate the season to Ron, and I wanted to honor Luke and Dani (Murphy’s widow) by giving them the ball.”
The players are wearing the RM on their helmets this season, and one player trimmed the initials into his hair.
The Bulldogs started the scoring in the first quarter with a touchdown by Eddie Hoppe, who would go on to score another TD in the second half.
The Foothillers tied the score 7-7 with a rushing touchdown by second-year QB Lawrence. The Bulldogs took the lead with a touchdown by Tanner Williams and a field goal in the first half.
In the second half, Ramona led 24-10 at one point. But after the Hillers stopped the Bulldogs at the 1 yard line, Grossmont got a touchback and a touchdown to fuel their comeback.
In the last minutes of the game, Grossmont narrowed the score to 24-21 and went on to score once more.
Besides Lawrence, Grossmont scorers were Brett Stone, Marlon Lampart and Christian Brooks.
“Tom is going to do a great job,” said athletic director Frank Foggiano. “Our kids are resilient and they have adjusted really well to Tom’s style.”
Said Karlo, who came from Mount Miguel: “For us, it was just getting a rhythm. We were out of rhythm (in the first half). This offense is based on speed. We were off a little bit so it just took us a while to get into rhythm.”
Added Karlo: “It’s a testament to their will that we won this game. When you’re up in Ramona and are down 24-10, you don’t come back like that.
“The pivotal play of the game is you have to give our defense credit for stopping them on the one yard line on the fourth down. They scored then, and it was a whole new ballgame.
Karlo, a Grossmont alumnus, said about his new assignment, “I live in La Mesa. This is where I should be. I love being home and absolutely love coaching these kids.”
“We had a lot of mistakes tonight, but we will definitely be fun to watch. I’m happy for the win. We will get back to school and try to correct all of these errors. This is the best way to win, for the kids to come back and persevere.”
Said quarterback Lawrence: “I am feeling definitely ready for this season. The team is coming together great.”
Grossmont hosts Escondido at 7 p.m. Friday in the Hillers' home opener. The Cougars beat Rancho Bernardo 28-27 on Friday night. Ramona travels to Morse High School in San Diego, which beat Southwest 42-13 on Friday night.