By Loren Kopff
For the second straight season, Valley Christian High hooked up with Linfield Christian High in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs. And it was a case of déjà vu as the same two players for the visiting Lions, who played a huge role in knocking the Crusaders out of the playoffs last season, did the same this time around.
Lorenzo Burns had a game-high 177 yards on 15 carries and found the end zone twice while Zac Archer rushed for 119 yards on 27 carries and scored once as Linfield Christian blanked V.C. 35-0 in the quarterfinals last Friday night at Crusader Field. V.C. ends its season at 9-3.
In last season’s first round game, V.C. head coach Woodie Grayson saw Burns complete 10 of 14 passes for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well as rush for 104 yards on 18 carries with another score. He also saw Archer score from 16 yards out in the third quarter in what turned out to be the game-winner in a 28-27 victory.
This time around, there was more to just Archer and Burns running wild all night long. The Crusaders were without the services of junior starting center Zach Krosschell, who had a concussion near the middle of practice last Wednesday. As a result, there were numerous bad snaps from center that senior quarterback Jesse Smith had to retrieve from the ground. There were over 40 yards in losses as a result of half a dozen bad snaps from center.
“I don’t want to spend too much time on that because I don’t want the kid that played the position to feel bad,” Grayson said. “It had an impact, but still there were some other things that we could have done to litigate those mistakes and we didn’t. We really needed to rally around him and we didn’t and that really put our defense in a bind because we just couldn’t sustain anything offensively.”
The Lions scored their first touchdown on the opening possession, a one-yard run from Burns nearly four minutes in. The Crusaders would punt on their first three possessions of the first half and were limited to 14 yards on the ground before halftime. Sophomore running back Gianni Hurd, who had entered the game with over 1,000 yards in just five games, was limited to seven yards on two carries in the half. He had reaggravated an injured ankle during the game and finished with 42 yards on 11 touches. Sophomore lineman Robert Chatman was also playing injured for the fourth straight game after he broke his hand against Heritage Christian High on Oct. 24.
“The biggest difference there once again was not being able to find an offensive rhythm,” Grayson said. “Even the times we were able to get [Hurd] the ball, he’s running half speed trying to make sure we get the handoff. [With] the ball was on the ground, it just threw everything off timing-wise offensively. It made it really, really tough.”
Despite the offense sputtering and the defense allowing a lot of yards to Archer and Burns, the score remained 7-0 until the final 2:13 of the half. That’s when Burns rumbled 11 yards to the end zone, carrying several defenders with him.
“Sometimes football just comes down to who wants it a little bit more,” Grayson said. “I thought those were two guys ran harder than we wanted to tackle. They turned two yard losses into four yard gains. We were hoping to be able to put them behind the chains. But if you don’t complete a tackle, it makes it tough.”
V.C. thought it would have some momentum after senior defensive back Robert Downs picked off Clay Maranville with 8:14 left in the third quarter. The Crusaders drove to the Linfield Christian 13-yard line where senior Roger Ramos was wide left on a 30-yard field goal attempt. The Lions would take advantage of the missed opportunity and parlayed that into a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a three-yard run from Greg Holt 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Following a fumble on Valley Christian’s first play after the Holt touchdown, Archer made it 28-0 on a two-yard run. The final score came with 3:10 remaining when John Henry went in from three yards out. The Crusaders would convert on four of 11 third downs and be faced with third and at least 10 yards six times.
Smith completed nine of 21 passes for 168 yards while on defense, senior linebacker Quaid Kawana and sophomore linebacker Darian Green each had nine tackles while junior defensive back R.J. Van Kampen had seven tackles and Downs added four tackles. The future still looks very bright for the Crusaders as they graduate 14 players on a team of 42 that was on the playoff roster.
“I have mixed emotions about this season,” Grayson said. “It started off with so many high hopes. We knew we had those guys that were in the waiting to get over that [30-day transfer] sit-out period. If we could just stay healthy while those guys were out, we thought we could really do something.”
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