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WEEK 6 FOOTBALL: Quick time on offense allows for Valley Christian’s defense to dominate Maranatha in rout

By Loren Kopff

In Valley Christian High’s Olympic League opener against Maranatha High, it was quality, not quantity that counted. The host Crusaders scored on their first seven drives of the game, with no drive lasting more than 1:56, and they went on to hammer the Minutemen 63-14 last Friday night at Crusader field.

In 299 games since the beginning of the 1998 season, the Crusaders have topped the 60-point plateau five times with another three games reaching 70 points. In fact, if the players weren’t tired on the field, then the V.C. cheerleaders were. In a tradition that has been going on for many years, the V.C. cheerleaders do leg kicks after each touchdown is scored. Against Maranatha, they did 315 leg kicks.

But the other staggering numbers favored V.C., in one way, and the Minutemen in another way. The Crusaders held the ball for less than 10 minutes in the first half and ran 25 plays before halftime (33 for the game). In contrast, Maranatha quarterback Kwon Peterson, who entered the game with over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns, was 10 of 37 for 105 yards in the first half alone. Maranatha would run nearly twice as many plays on offense than the hosts and the entire second half was played under running clock conditions.

“It’s obvious there were a lot of big plays tonight,” said V.C. head coach Woodie Grayson. “When your defense is playing well and you’re playing with a short field, and then you’re getting one-play, two-play, three-play drives, you’re not going to have great overall numbers or even time of possession. We’re not surprised at that. We knew that we had a big play offense coming into the season. We knew that we wanted to be more balanced offensively coming into the season.”

On V.C.’s first possession of the game, it ran four plays with the final being a 62-yard scoring play from senior quarterback Isaac Joseph to senior wide receiver Jaylon Tucker. Then on the ninth offensive play of the game for V.C., senior running back Gianni Hurd scored from six yards out with 4:47 left in the opening quarter.

Following the second straight three and out by the defense, the Crusaders needed two plays to score touchdown number three, a seven-yard scamper by Joseph. Another Maranatha punt, the fourth of the stanza, led to a Hurd 71-yard run and with 1:48 left in the quarter, it was now 28-0.

By now, the game was already taking a different look from some of the previous meetings between these two teams. The Crusaders have won the league the past two seasons with the Minutemen coming in second place in 2015. Maranatha did win the league crown in 2013 and 2014 with the Crusaders finishing in second place both times. And when Maranatha joined the league in 2010, both teams tied for second place.

“The hardest thing about small school football is replacing talent year to year,” Grayson said. “When I first started in this league, they were on top and we were chasing them. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. We needed to play better than what we had been playing and we wanted to start off league in first place as opposed to last place.”

The scoring barrage continued in the second quarter with senior wide receiver Bailey Torres scoring on a 32-yard run exactly two minutes into the stanza. Then after senior defensive back Adam Meza recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, senior running back Darian Green got into the end zone with a 38-yard run. The Crusaders then scored on two of its next three plays, first a 34-yard run from senior wide receiver Quory Smith, his only touch on the offensive side, then a Joseph to Tucker connection for 48 yards. Smith, along with senior tight end and defensive back Garret Williams were both making welcome returns to the lineup after missing the past five and four games respectively due to injuries. Williams would catch one pass for 20 yards.

“Getting Garret back in the secondary and Quory back in the secondary made a huge difference,” Grayson said. “There weren’t guys running open as there had been in past games in our films. His guys were covered tonight and we had good pressure as we normally get. So, I won’t say that [Peterson] didn’t play well. Just having our full allotment of players back and our defense being at full strength was the difference tonight.

“Those guys have some experience and some moxie,” Grayson later added. “They take it as a challenge to defend people in the air. The other two guys that we had playing there did an admirable job trying, but they were learning on the job. Getting those guys back really solidified our pass defense. Also, having them back on the offensive side…you saw how other things opened up in our offense.”

With the Crusaders in cruise control, it allowed Grayson to start playing his reserves even before the first half ended. V.C. went into the locker room with 466 yards of total offense. It would begin the second half on offense but forced to punt for the second time in the contest. The last touchdown came when junior defensive back Derek Talsma returned a fumble 45 yards late in the fourth quarter.

Joseph was six of 12 for 173 yards while Hurd led the rushing attack with 103 yards on six carries. Green and Torres each added 79 yards on four and two touches respectively. On defense, Green had seven tackles while senior defensive end Tevita Makaafi pitched in with another five. In addition, The Crusaders sacked Peterson six times with senior lineman Jake Leue accounting for half of them.

V.C., which improved to 5-2 overall, will take tonight off before hosting Monrovia High on Oct. 20 in the final regular season home game for the seniors. The Crusaders are ranked fifth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 8 poll. They currently do not face a ranked opponent the remainder of the regular season.

“It could have come maybe a week earlier to try to get guys healthy,” Grayson said. “But we’ll take it. It’s good timing for us.”

 

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