Hilltop saw its new stadium celebration cut short Friday night when Escondido stole the 2018 football season opener 31-20.
Sophomore quarterback Robbie Ramos had a hand in four touchdowns, three of which were sneaks from inside the 3-yard line to lead a young offense to a statement win on the road.
The Lancers (0-1) took the energy from Robert Dodds Stadium along with a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime. Senior quarterback Joey Castillo threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, including a 41-yard bomb with 3:46 left in the opening quarter.
“That was a well-coached Hilltop team that came out and busted their butt,” Escondido coach Jud Bordman said. “Playing them two years in a row that’s what we expected.”
After losing twice to Hilltop in the past two seasons, Escondido (1-0) needed desperately to take momentum away from the home team going into the second half. The Cougars defense did just that, forcing back-to-back 3-and-outs. Ramos then led Escondido downfield for a 44-yard scoring drive to give the Cougars a 17-14 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“It took us a while to get back into rhythm in the second half,” Hilltop coach Drew Westling said. “We really never did get it back.”
Ramos sealed the victory with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tajae Brooks on a quick slant route that the sophomore receiver turned into six points.
“I came into this season prepared,” Ramos said. “I was really nervous but once the helmets started hitting, I was ready to go.”
The Cougars are on the road again next week when they visit Mira Mesa while Hilltop will have a tough task at Eastlake next week.