Toads defeat odds, move to
by Jesse Phelps
One week into the CIF playoffs, The Thacher School's first-year
football team is still alive. On a chilly Friday night at Calabasas
High School, the fearless Toads played like they belonged, opening
up a 21-point first quarter lead on their way to a dramatic 36-34
victory over the Heritage League champions, the Viewpoint Patriots.
Thacher (8-1) was led on offense by Tyler Caldwell and Robert
Cerda, each of whom scored two touchdowns, and Charlie Munzig,
who scored a touchdown and kicked a 25-yard field goal that wound
up providing the final margin of victory.
Thacher looked to be in control early on, scoring three touchdowns
in the opening quarter. Robert Cerda scored on a 5-yard run,
Munzig caught his first touchdown of the year - a 10-yard pass
from quarterback Brenton Sullivan - and Caldwell broke a 55-yard
punt return, eluding several would-be tacklers along the way.
But Patriot quarterback Geoff Chizever passed for a score then
intercepted Sullivan on the ensuing possession. Minutes later
he connected with Viewpoint receiver Mike McLaughlin from 16
yards out for his second TD pass of the quarter. The power running
of Daniel Wasser began to consistently set up play-action for
Chizever, who kept Thacher DBs Caldwell and Owili Eison off guard
Caldwell gave credit to the Viewpoint passing attack: "It
was tough," he said. "I got beat like two times for
touchdowns and they did real well. When it came down to the end,
we really dug in our heels but they're a great team."
After Caldwell's 60-yard scoring burst was called back on a clipping
penalty, Gabe Yette kept the half's final drive alive, gaining
three yards on a fourth and one in Viewpoint territory. Four
plays later, Munzig's field goal made the score 24-14 with one
second remaining until halftime.
After recovering a fumble on the opening kick of the second half,
Thacher took advantage of the short field and Cerda scored his
Viewpoint came right back. Wasser pounded ahead, rumbling down
the field, eventually scoring on a 1-yard burst to pull the Patriots
to within 10. However, Viewpoint missed a 2-point conversion
that could have made it a one-possession game.
On the ensuing drive, with Thacher threatening inside the Patriot
10 yard line, Chizever intercepted Sullivan again. He then hit
McLaughlin for a touchdown as the fourth quarter got under way.
Holder Matt Kogel took in the two point conversion - and cut
Thacher's once safe lead was down to two.
Eison, Yette and Caldwell combined to run the ball impressively
on the drive, but once again gave the Patriots the chance to
take the lead. Thacher's Richard Smith came up with a huge sack
and a batted pass to stall Viewpoint's momentum.
Eison broke 19 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive and
three plays later, Caldwell took it in from the six to put Thacher
up eight points.
After the Toads failed on a two-point conversion attempt, Wasser
again looked totally unstoppable, eventually scoring from 2 yards
out to set up the big stop by Ellery Khazanovich and company.
"All I knew was that we had to stop him," said a jubilant
Khazanovich after the game.
The Thacher faithful went crazy as defensive tackle Khazanovich,
who broke his finger early in the first quarter, found a seam,
gained penetration up the middle and was joined by a host of
teammates to halt Wasser short of the goal line, preserving the
Thacher lead and eventual win.
Thacher coach Jeff Hooper was elated in the aftermath of his
team's first CIF win. "It feels great," said Hooper,
"Better than I ever would have expected."
The road for the Toads doesn't get any easier from here. Thacher
will take on yet another league champion in the second round,
9-1 Avalon, which won the Four Corners League and demolished
the Santa Clarita Christian team 80-38 in the first round. Thacher
will have a home-field advantage of sorts as the game will be
played in Ojai, at Nordhoff, Friday night at 7 p.m.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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