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Valley Christian does enough to post first round upset in CIF

 By Loren Kopff

LA PUENTE-For the second straight week, Valley Christian’s football team bolted out to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter. But this time the Crusaders were able to hold onto its lead thanks to a gritty defense that was on the field for over 15 minutes in the second half.

Junior quarterbacks William Brines and Jack Struiksma each threw a touchdown and senior running back Darryl Richardson added another one on the ground as the Crusaders upset host La Puente 21-14 last Friday night in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Northwest Division first round game. It’s the first playoff victory for V.C. (5-6) since 2009.

“This time we were able to not turn the ball over a bunch of times and let the game get away before we made our next set of adjustments,” said. V.C. first-year head coach Woodie Grayson. “I think we’re a good team. I think we’re balanced. If we play clean and take care of the ball, we’re a tough out.”

Brines got his first start since the opening game of the season and engineered a nifty 12-play 57-yard drive that took nearly half of the first quarter and was aided by a pass interference call on the Warriors. Brines capped off the drive with an eight-yard score to junior wide receiver Nathan Aaronsen.

Brines would complete eight of 13 passes for 80 yards but Struiksma would put the second place representatives from the Olympic League up 14-0 with a 45-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Michael Douglas with 47.1 seconds remaining in the opening stanza. It was the first of only two completed passes for Struiksma, who was nursing a thumb injury on his throwing hand all week and didn’t throw until last Thursday. Struiksma injured his thumb in the final regular season game and Brines played the final moments of that contest in a 31-28 loss to Maranatha.

“Will Brines, last week, stepped in and didn’t flinch,” Grayson said. “He took all of the reps this week and earned the start and earned more than just starting. He played well for us for a guy that hasn’t played quarterback since basically game one of the season. Because he plays so much defense, we still needed Jack to come in and be able to play so that we can continue to use Will on defense. We’ll take the two quarterbacks tonight. It worked out well.”

V.C. gained 104 yards in the first quarter and the 14-0 lead would be enough for the Crusaders even though they were limited to 166 yards the rest of the way. La Puente’s Jacob Tovar got his team back in the game with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jose Ochoa early in the second quarter.

But the second place representatives from the Montview League, who won seven games, couldn’t establish much on the ground and were limited to 62 yards in just under five minutes of action following the touchdown in the second quarter. The Crusaders would ice the game with 3:09 left in the third quarter on Richardson’s 52-yard score on third and five. Richardson would lead V.C. with 93 yards on nine carries.

“We think we have good depth at running back,” Grayson said. “Obviously [senior running back Jonathan Nicholson] is the guy but if you’re going back at some of the early games in the year, you’ll see Darryl with a number of yards and Adam Range with a number of yards. Sometimes you have to ride the best guy.”

Junior Kyle Westra had 13 tackles and V.C.’s defense sacked Tovar four times. Now, the Crusaders will host top ranked and Tri-Valley League champion Oak Park (10-1) tonight at Crusader Field. The teams have not faced each other since 2004 when Oak Park eliminated V.C. in the semifinals.

“We never talk about 10-0, 14-0,” Grayson said. “We knew that there were some tough games on the schedule and we were going to try to get better each week and when we got to the playoffs we were going to try to make our best run at it all. It’s nice that we got the first playoff win but now we want to try to get another one.”

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