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WEEK EIGHT FOOTBALL Joseph concludes birthday week with perfection as Valley Christian rolls

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

Two days prior to Valley Christian High’s homecoming game against Whittier Christian High, junior quarterback Isaac Joseph celebrated his 17th birthday. Then last Friday night, Joseph had one of the biggest nights any high school quarterback will have.

Joseph was perfect on all 11 passes he attempted, threw for 358 yards and tied a school record with six touchdown passes thrown as the Crusaders roughed up the Heralds 63-34 at Crusader Field. Joseph tied Ryan Fronke’s single-game touchdown mark set against Maranatha High in 2010. He also set the school record for best completion percentage in a game and fell 12 yards short of tying Fronke’s record for most passing yards in a game, also set against Maranatha in 2010.

“Today just felt like any other night,” Joseph said. “It happened, so hopefully next week we can continue all of this momentum.”

V.C. knew it would have its hands full with the high scoring Heralds, who entered the contest with 392 points in eight games and had Quinn Commans, who had thrown for over 3,000 yards with 38 touchdowns and just one interception, under center. But on Whittier Christian’s first drive of the game, Commans was picked off by junior linebacker Darian Green, whose 58-yard return set up a 17-yard touchdown run from junior running back Gianni Hurd.

After Justin Osborn put W.C. on the board with a 41-yard run, the Crusaders increased their lead to 14-6 after Joseph threw the first of his three touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Michael Polk, this one going for 43 yards. Hurd then made it 21-6 almost three minutes into the second quarter on a 31-yard run and the Heralds knew they would be playing catch up the rest of the night.

“You try to minimize and hope that they make some mistakes,” said V.C. head coach Woodie Grayson on W.C.’s high octane offense. “And they did. I think the goal is always to come in and take away their favorite plays; try to take away their best two or three pass plays, their best two or three best run plays and make them beat you with something else. On our end, we have to take care of business and put the ball in the end zone knowing that they’re going to score when they get [the ball].”

After the Crusaders (6-2 overall, 2-0 in the Olympic League) fumbled with 7:20 left in the half, the Heralds converted that into an Osborn three-yard run. After that, the hosts scored on five straight possessions. Three plays following the Osborn score, Joseph threw a 64-yard strike to senior wide receiver R.J. Van Kampen. Then with 1:25 remaining, Joseph found Polk for a 41-yard connection. Following a W.C. score, Polk completed his touchdown trifecta with a 57-yard catch on the last play of the half.

In the first half alone, Joseph was seven of seven for 245 yards with Polk catching three passes for 141 yards. On the other side of the field, Commans completed 21 of 32 passes in the first half for 248 yards.

“He was definitely the difference,” Grayson said. “For whatever reason, we struggled on the ground tonight to get Gio going with the explosive plays. They did a good job of keying in on him and the way they set their defense, they were trying to minimize what Gio was going to do

“So to have Isaac make the throws that he made tonight and make the reads that he made…and you have to give the receivers credit as well,” he continued. “The first touchdown pass to Michael was just a short, little play and Michael turned it into a home run.”

“I think it was way too early [to get excited] because plays like that happen every game and I didn’t expect there to be a turnout like six touchdowns,” Joseph said of the first half. “It was a surprise.”

While V.C. won the coin toss before the game started, the decision to defer possession until the second half paid off because Joseph would throw his fifth touchdown a little over three minutes in, this time a 41-yard pass to junior wide receiver Quory Smith to make it a 49-20 affair. After the Heralds were stopped on downs, junior wide receiver Bailey Torres got into the action by catching a 47-yard pass to make it 56-20. Another W.C. drive that ended on downs led to Hurd capping off V.C.’s scoring with a one-yard run with 62 seconds left in the third quarter.

“That was the reason why we deferred and wanted the extra possession in the second half,” Grayson said. “Because we figured if we get a stop in the first half, and even if we keep scoring with each other, we get the ball first in the second half and now we get just a little bit of a cushion.”

Grayson knew his team would have to come out with a strong effort defensively if the Crusaders were to stay alive for an Olympic League title. And containing Commans was the number one objective. He would finish with 34 completions in 56 attempts for 388 yards, but only two touchdowns. Even more impressive was the Crusader’s defense stopping him nine times behind the line of scrimmage in 17 attempts.

“You just have to have good coverage,” Joseph said. “That’s it, that’s all it is. Today wasn’t our best day on defense and we just have to step it up next week.”

“It was huge because you watch [Commans] on film but he’s able to throw the ball on time when he wants to,” Grayson said of the defensive performance. “He’s spectacular, and even tonight, he made some great throws. But there was more pressure on him tonight than we had seen in any film. He even throws well on the run. Pressure was everything tonight.”

Hurd was limited to 106 yards on 14 carries while on defense Van Kampen led the way with a school-tying 22 tackles and Green added another 15 tackles with two sacks. Senior linebacker Jalen Hines chipped in with 12 tackles followed by senior Clay D’Amico’s nine tackles. Senior lineman Austin Minnema also had two sacks while senior lineman Eric Schoonover got into the action with one sack.

“I think we’re explosive and how you’re going to defend us here on out is going to be tough,” Grayson said. “As you can see, Isaac runs the ball well, he can throw the ball well, we’re explosive at the receiving end and we still have that monster in the backfield that if you forget about him, he’s going to hurt you as well.”

The 63 points scored marked the second time V.C. has eclipsed 60 points this season and the third time since 2002 they had scored at least 63 points against W.C. In 2014, also on homecoming, the Crusaders outlasted the Heralds 67-44. The Crusaders, who are now the top ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 9 poll for the first time this season, will host Heritage Christian High tonight with a chance to clinch at least a share of the league crown.

“They’re a little bit of a monster,” Grayson said. “They’re going to run their Wing-T and they’re really good at it. We slowed down the pass tonight, but we’re definitely going to have to shut down the run next week. Everything for us is going to be a team effort.”