Sierra Canyon High has no problem with being a football Goliath. Not in a coarse, bullying way, but rather a no-doubt-about-it fashion when it comes to playing and winning the game.
So the almost ruthless efficiency the Trailblazers employed in pounding Chaminade High, 35-7, for the Southern Section Division 2 championship was something to be respected and admired if not necessarily beloved — at least by the team getting pounded.
The victory made it two straight Southern Section championships for Sierra Canyon — last year it won the Division 3 final — and three section titles in the past four years. And, to the discomfort of its upcoming opponents, this collection of Trailblazers is still relatively young; there are only eight seniors listed on the 58-player roster.
“I think we’ve built a program we’re really proud of and, obviously, we’ve had a great deal of success,” said Jon Ellinghouse, the only head coach Sierra Canyon’s had since it started playing varsity football in 2007. “We’ve climbed up in divisions and still find a way to win. It’s because we have great kids and great coaches who work really hard. I couldn’t be more proud of our program.”
Chaminade, a surprise finalist, ended the 2019 season with an 8-6 record.
“Our players achieved on every level — on the field, in big games, the classroom and the community,” Chaminade Coach Ed Croson said. “We had great unity and enthusiasm.”
The frigid, bone-chilling conditions at Chaminade’s field on Friday, Nov. 29, played right into the hands of the bone-rattling scheme of the Trailblazers, who spent most the game running through — and occasionally around — the Eagles defense. Once the dominance of Sierra Canyon’s offensive line and running backs was determined, the night wasn’t just a cold one for Chaminade, it was a long one.
The host Eagle’s biggest moment came early in the second quarter, when a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jaylen Henderson to Ian Duarte gave Chaminade its only lead, 7-3.
Sierra Canyon reclaimed the lead, 10-7, on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Chayden Peery to Donovan Williams. Then the Trailblazers came up with two spirit-crushing moments.
The first was a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown by D.J. Harvey that pushed Sierra Canyon’s lead out to 17-7 with 2:37 remaining the half.
“We had practiced that return all week, so it was an easy setup for me,” Harvey said. “I trusted my blockers, teammates and my coaches, and just followed the lane.”
Kicker Josh Bryan tacked on a 30-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half to make the lead 20-7 at halftime. Then came the other back-breaker: Sierra Canyon started the third quarter with an 80-yard, 14-play drive that consumed 6:37, and culminated with a 1-yard scoring run by Hunter Williams, and a two-point conversion run by Peery. That made the score 28-7, and reduced the remainder of the game to garbage time.
“Every time we come out in the second half, we want to finish it up,” said lineman Reggie Jones, one of the eight seniors. “We already had them on their heels, so we just wanted to finish it up. We knew we were stronger. From watching film, we knew we could beat them. And we had that opportunity [in the third quarter].”
Sierra Canyon added a final touchdown on a 21-yard run by Williams with 7:38 left to play in the game.
The Trailblazers collectively rushed for 232 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
“I thought we had to adjust to some things they were doing early, and I think we played solid offense,” Ellinghouse said. “And our kids have been there before. We played a good, tough schedule, we’ve been up-and-down and had to come back to win some games. So (even when Chaminade took a lead) there was no panic; our kids just kept grinding.”