Two Finals to Forget

M. Terry / SFVS

Fallen Warriors — Sierra Canyon teammates J.D. Hernandez (3) and Dominic Deberry trudge off the field following the Trailblazers loss to Central High in the state bowl game.

The numb and glum expressions on the faces of the Sierra Canyon football players and coaches told you all you needed to know.

For the second straight year the Trailblazers had to watch their opponent celebrate winning the last football game of the season.

This time it was the 2019 State CIF Championship Division 1-AA contest played on Friday, Dec. 13, at Cerritos College. And this time Sierra Canyon absorbed a 34-19 defeat from Central High of Fresno, CA.

The Grizzlies completed a perfect year (15-0) primarily through the excellent passing of senior quarterback Jameson Silva, who stood tall in the face of the Trailblazers pass rush, withstood several hard hits — including a few late ones — and completed 21 of 39 attempts for 353 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once.

Silva’s leading receiver, Jeremiah Hunter, caught seven passes for 120 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. Also grabbing scoring passes were Anazjae Simpson, covering 25 yards, and Xavier Worthy, for 34 yards. 

Central High only rushed for 55 yards collectively, but running back Je’Kob Jones scored twice on the ground.

While Sierra Canyon was more balanced on offense statistically — 145 yards rushing and 237 yards passing by quarterback Chayden Peery, who completed 24-of-43 attempts (but none for a touchdown) — the Trailblazers, who never led, always appeared to be struggling up a hill while the Grizzlies were on their way down.

Sierra Canyon’s scoring came from a 72-yard touchdown run by Quatro Sumlin — who led all rushers with 96 net yards on nine carries — a 2-yard touchdown run by Peery, as well as a pair of field goals by Josh Bryan measuring 26 and 32 yards. 

“Our defense did come up with key stops all night. But we couldn’t get our own [offensive] rhythm going,” Sierra Canyon Coach Jon Ellinghouse said.

As they look back on this experience — and they should, since  the bulk of this team can return next season — the Trailblazers can learn from their mistakes, including an unexpected propensity for penalties (11 for 124 yards) that helped extend Grizzlies drives and wear down a defense trying to combat Central’s overall team speed.

When asked if the Trailblazers’ youth (only eight seniors) was a factor in the outcome, Ellinghouse replied, “That’s possible.” But he did not want to take anything away from Central’s win.

“That’s a great team. And great teams can make good teams look bad.” 

Reseda Falls Hard

The 2019 season concluded harshly for Reseda High as well. The Regents were shut out by host Milpitas High, 34-0, in the state bowl Division 5A game on Saturday, Dec. 14.

Whether it was the travel to Northern California — Milpitas, located in Santa Clara county and within the Silicon Valley, is south of San Jose and north of Fremont — the buildup to the school’s first appearance in a state final or an unfamiliarity of their opponent save a couple of days of film study, Reseda was no match for a team that may have started its season 1-6, but won its last eight games and collected its second state title in the past three years.

Trojans running back Josue Torres, a senior, ran for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries. Reseda didn’t help itself with three fumbles, including two on kickoffs that Milipitas turned into a 14-0 lead. It grew to 20-0 at halftime, and the Trojans never lost their control.

“Once the game started, I don’t think ‘the moment’ overwhelmed us,” said Reseda Coach Alonso Arreola after the team had returned to Los Angeles. “We didn’t play well…and momentum was really a key. They got it early and we never recovered.”

Still, the loss could not take all the shine off of the 2019 season for the Regents team that was 11-4 overall, won the Division 1 championship for its first City Section title since 1995, and also won its Southern regional playoff game.

It gives the program a needed boost and a chance to re-examine its goals.

“A lot of times just winning the section was a ‘goal,’” Arreola said. “I don’t think these kids had really put into perspective that they would have an opportunity to be in a state playoff format. But now that’s been a reality, the goals moving forward can change — number one to continue to put yourself in a situation to compete in this format now that it is alive and well.

“That it is possible will be in the minds of future football kids here because of this 2019 team. And that’s a big deal.”

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