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IRONWOOD LEAGUE FOOTBALL – Valley Christian fades in second half as Village Christian grabs last automatic playoff berth 

Valley Christian High sophomore wide receiver Dylan Teays catches one of his two passes during last Friday night’s Ironwood League contest with Village Christian High. Teays caught both of his passes from senior quarterback Joe DeYoung in the first half, one going for a 20-yard score as the Defenders fell 45-12. PHOTO BY STEVE FERICEAN.

October 31, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Last season, Valley Christian High finished the regular season at 3-7, won just one game in the inaugural season of the Ironwood League, but was given an at-large berth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 playoffs where it eventually played for a championship. This season, the Defenders entered last Friday’s contest with Village Christian High with three wins but found themselves playing for third place and an automatic spot in the playoffs.

The task at hand: upset the league’s second leading scoring team, dropping the Crusaders to fourth place and making them wait about 36 hours to learn of their playoff fate. For two and a half quarters, Valley Christian hung around with the Crusaders, keeping it a one-possession game. But in the end, Village Christian scored 25 unanswered points and clinched third place in the league with a 45-12 victory. It’s the third time since 2018 that the Defenders have concluded the regular season at 3-7.

Valley Christian got off to a fast start as four plays and 2:02 into the game, senior quarterback Joe DeYoung tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Dylan Teays. The extra point was no good, but at least the young, hometown squad was showing it wasn’t going down without a fight. 

Three and a half minutes later, Village Christian tied the game as their leading rusher, Zavontae Flournoy-Trice scored on a two-yard run. Sophomore Lucas Witt blocked the extra point and from that point on, the rest of the first half would be all about the defenses. The next three combined drives would end in an interception from Tyes McCondichie, a fumble recovery from sophomore linebacker Cole Hefner and a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ben Donnelly, all in a span of 70 seconds. The two-point pass attempt from Chase Everett would be unsuccessful and the score remained 12-6 the rest of the half.

“We were pretty happy at halftime to be down 12-6,” said V.C. first-year head coach Brendan Chambers. “To have that many turnovers and just not the greatest offensive performance, and to still be in the football game was huge for us. Obviously, losing Joe definitely hurt us offensively being able to move the ball. [Junior] Austin [Abrahams] has done some great things for us; definitely an athlete. We were trying to get the ball in his hands, but it’s a little bit different of an offense.”

DeYoung dislocated left shoulder a couple of weeks ago, but still started against the Crusaders. He took a hit to the shoulder sometime late in the second quarter and Chambers decided to shut him down. Baseball is DeYoung’s main sport and Chambers said he wanted to make sure he is as healthy as possible for the 2024 baseball season. He was seven of 10 for 37 yards in the half but had two interceptions. 


Valley Christian High junior cornerback Jayce Shields is ready to tackle Ryan Dellutri of Village Christian High after a first quarter reception in last Friday night’s Ironwood League game. Valley Christian lost 45-12 as Shields had four and a half tackles in the contest.


Village Christian thought it had another touchdown late in the half, as Dylan Worrell blocked Witt’s punt and returned it 26 yards for a score. But the Crusaders were called for an illegal use of the hands infraction and four plays later, Witt picked off Everett at the 20-yard line.

Whatever momentum Valley Christian thought it had heading into the second half was immediately wiped out as senior John Montoya’s onside kickoff attempt was returned 50 yards by Ryan Dellutri for a touchdown. Still, the Defenders responded and went on their longest drive of the game, a 10-play, 48-yard trip down the field that lasted a little over five minutes. It ended when Abrahams found senior wide receiver Isaiah Jordan for eight yards and despite a two-point pass attempt not going the right way, Valley Christian was still within a possession of tying the contest.

“That was a tough one,” said Chambers. “We practiced it all week [and] we talked about us being unaggressive when they did the onside kick. We didn’t talk about them being aggressive. We thought, at worst case, they get the ball at the 50 and we throw our defense out there. But we kept competing; we kept competing all the way through to the very end and I’m proud of the guys for doing so. It just shows their heart and their character.”

The Defenders would run three plays the rest of the quarter and 10 more in the fourth as Village Christian’s defense helped put the game away. Following a 23-yard field goal from Jakob Santiago, Dreon Lewis recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff which led to Flournoy-Trice scoring from a yard out with 2:36 left in the third quarter. Then early in the fourth quarter, and after Santiago booted a 32-yard field goal, Worrell picked off Abrahams at Valley Christian’s 15-yard line and returned it for a score, making it 39-12 with 8:26 remaining in the game.  

“When they got up by three scores, we kind of realized our offense is still a little bit limited and we were going to be able to score so many times,” said Chambers. “It kind of got deflated a little bit. But we were just exhausted.”

Abrahams went 12 of 18 for 96 yards and Jordan caught eight passes for 69 yards while junior Jayce Shields hauled in four for 22 yards. Abrahams and DeYoung kept Valley Christian in the game because the running game was non-existent. The Defenders rushed 24 times, gained 11 yards, and had nine plays of negative yardage. Sheilds also had four and a half tackles, followed by Witt (four), sophomore cornerback Oliver Boateng (three and a half) and sophomore linebacker Cole Hefner (three, plus a fumble recovery).

“We thought we had a chance,” said Chambers. “But they came out; they’re a very physical team. But I’m still proud of our defense and how they played. To see where we came from [the Gahr game] and all those missed tackles and missed assignments…to be able to make stops in our own red zone was just a progression that we’ve had for this season.”

Valley Christian, which was shutout three times and held to six points in two other games, but scored over 35 points in two of its three victories, will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and the fifth time since 2006.