PREP FOOTBALL: Defending CIF champs beaten at Redlands … Diaz interception, TD run … Matthews “held” to 133 total yards … Howard’s 3 PAT kicks was the difference.

It might’ve seemed easy to boil last week’s Redlands High win over San Gorgonio, 21-18, down to a couple of basic factors.

There was a special teams standoff, plus a matchup of an experienced QB against a first-year Varsity starter.

It might’ve been 5-foot-11, 160-pound senior linebacker Jess Luna centering the load of a Terrier defense that stood off the defending CIF Division 9 champion Spartans. His game-clinching interception halted San G’s possible game-winning drive.

D’Mitri Talley, Luna, Benjamin Best and Saad Ikram, who recovered a fumble, showed up plenty on Redlands’ Spartan-stopping plays.

“Miguel Olmedo, our defensive coordinator, called a good game,” said second-year Terrier head coach Mike McFarland. “There was a lot of defense out there. We had a plan.”

Olmedo said he threw “several” different looks at Burbine. Was it a factor in the outcome? “I believe so.”

The CIF Division 7 Terriers, 2-8 last season, were taking on a CIF Division 9 defending champion that won 12 out of 16.

“We played them tough last year,” said McFarland, reflecting on a 26-21 loss at San G. “That game went right to the wire.”

So did this one.

Since San G was missing a placekicker, the Terriers successfully stood off a trio of Spartans’ two-point PAT attempts. Redlands countered with a near-costly 20-yard average on four punts.

“We’ll get our kicker back this week,” said 2018 CIF Coach of the Year Rich McClure, San G’s third-year coach. “Ineligible.”

Terrier QB Trent Young racked up 208 yards, seemingly outdueling first-year Spartan Varsity shooter Seth Burbine, who racked up 174 yards off his arm.

Both coaches, McFarland and McClure, grumbled there was lots of work to do with each QB.

Since most people watch QB play — keeping their eye on the ball — few probably take in rabid defensive play. There was plenty from both sides.

San G held Redlands to 66 yards on the ground.

Redlands surrendered 93 yards to San G, 60 on seven carries by returning All-CIF wide receiver Jaylen Matthews (73 yards on 7 receptions), shifted to tailback in 2019.

Said McFarland: “We did a good job of locating him on every snap.”

Arturo Diaz nearly had a 96-yard interception return for a TD, except that a Terrier assistant

coach stepped into the “river” along the sideline. A penalty flag fell at the 30, opposite side of the field where Diaz was making his return.

It nearly cost Redlands this game. It would have put the game seriously out of reach, likely a 28-6 lead with one quarter remaining.

Redlands, meanwhile, staked itself to a 21-0 lead off Kevin Character’s 10-yard reception, Best’s 34-yard catch, plus Diaz’s 3-yard run — each capped by a Mason Howard PAT kick.

The Terriers’ 3-0 advantage in PAT kicks proved to be the difference.

Each of San G’s TDs were followed by two-point PAT attempts, failing to score on a pass, a run and a run-pass option after the Spartans’ three scores. LB Jaheim Crawford’s 66-yard interception return with 1.5 seconds left in the first half initially got San G on the scoreboard.

Redlands had its own special teams headaches, namely punts of 13, 11, 22 and 36 yards. The first two set up San G TDs — Desi Hernandez’s 1-yard run and Damajae Mitchell’s 4-yard pass from Burbine.

McFarland had Howard take Redlands’ fourth punt, nailing a 36-yarder with 2:50 left. It helped protect a three-point lead.

So did cornerback Adam Valencia’s chin-rattling tackle of Crawford on a pass reception.

One snap before Luna’s interception, he stepped into another Burbine pass attempt, actually getting his hand on the football.

Luna told reporter John Murphy, “I saw the QB wanting to throw that little drag route. I didn’t get it on the play before, but I did on the last one.”