Two years ago, Rancho Mirage High School opened its doors 3.2 miles down the street from Cathedral City High. The Rattlers’ first graduating class, then sophomores now seniors, was compiled primarily of kids who went to CCHS for their freshman year. That included most of the football team.
So when the two schools met on the football field in a varsity game last year, it was for more than a crosstown rivalry game. Siblings stood on opposite sides, as did former teammates and friends. At least one dad coached against his son.
Cathedral City narrowly took the first chapter of the rivalry game in 2014. On Friday night in Rancho Mirage, the Rattlers took the second.
With a 45-8 win, Rancho Mirage sent a message to the Lions and the rest of the valley that this could be just a glimpse of what’s to come at Rancho Mirage High.
“There’s so much of a connection between these two schools,” Rancho Mirage head coach L.D. Matthews said. “I think it did mean something because of who we were playing, but for us we just trying to focus on it like it’s another game.”
Fans filed into Jerry Argovitz Stadium early, packing the house for what has quickly become one of the biggest games of the year for each team. The Rattler’s student section, affectionately known as “The Pit,” kept the volume to the max throughout the entirety of the game. The Rattlers gave the students and the rest of the crowd good reason to stay on their feet.
Rancho Mirage drove down the field on the opening series and crossed the goal line on an 11-play drive that set the tone early. The Lions were never out of it until the second half, with big plays from tailback Jordan Wallace and quarterback Cameron Lee keeping things interesting.
But eight penalties stalled drives and allowed the Rattlers to take 10-0 lead into the intermission. It didn’t get any easier in the second half, as the Lions defense couldn’t stop big plays after Cathedral City turned the ball over twice, giving the Rattlers a short field.
The Lions showed some good things in a game that may have been closer than the score might indicate. But Cathedral City wasn’t looking for any moral victories afterward.
“It’s frustrating because they’re right down the street and we’re competing for kids,” Cathedral City head coach Richard Lee said. “So to play this way against these guys hurts.
“But we’ll learn from this. We’ll be a lot better later this season. We’re a young team that’s learning.”
A 28-point third quarter put the exclamation point on the decisive win for the Rattlers, who never looked back in the second half. Turnovers and penalties turned a close game into a rout.
The Rattlers are now 2-0 after winning only a single game in their first varsity season a year ago.
“Last year, going 1-9 really paid off because we realized we have to go to work everyday,” Matthews said. “Hard work and dedication does pay off.”
It’s just one win, but it’s a big win because of what it means to both teams as they continue building for the future.
“We made school history tonight,” Matthews said. “We’ve never won two games, so we have to learn to deal with success and tomorrow we have to come back and understand we have to go to work.
“There’s a lot of positives, and we’re just really excited here at Rancho Mirage.”
Player of the Game
Kyle Whitefield transferred to Rancho Mirage during the middle of the last school year, having never played a varsity game before. Two games in and he’s arguably the most valuable player at Rancho Mirage. He ran for 202 yards and three scores on 16 carries to lead the Rattlers. he had 12 carries for 10 or more yards.
The Rattlers will look to go 3-0 when they play at Rubidoux in Riverside next Thursday. Cathedral City will play in its home opener against Vista Del Lago.
Rancho Mirage 45, Cathedral City 8
Rancho Mirage (2-0)
Cathedral City (0-2)
(RM): Kyle Whitefield 1-yard run (David Whelan kick)
(RM) Whelan 38-yard field goal
(RM): Whitefield 15-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM): Marquis Prior 20-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM): Whitefield 11-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM): Steven Knight 2-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM): Knight 21-yard run (Whelan kick)
(CC): Jordan Wallace 2-yard run (conversion good)
RUSHING (Carries-Yds-TD) – RM: Kyle Whitefield 16-202-3, Marquis Prior 15-103-1, Steven Knight 7-68-2, Bablo Munoz 2-4, Brandon Williams 1-(minus 3). CC: Jordan Wallace 17-123-1, Cameron Lee 12-78, Ivan Rodriguez 1-28. PASSING (Comp-Att-TD-INT-Yds) – RM: Marquis Prior 1-7-0-0-9. CC: Cameron Lee 8-14-0-1-95. RECEIVING (Rec-Yds-TD) – RM: Charles Murrell 1-9. CC: Isaiah Ross 6-76, James Green III 1-16, Timothy Miller 1-3.