Avalon spears Toads in CIF
by Jesse Phelps
Thacher coach Jeff Hooper's first-year football upstarts,
led by a tight group of seniors with both confidence and talent
in abundance, had it all end in round two of the CIF Southern
Section playoffs Friday night under the bright lights of Ojai
Valley Community Stadium.
The Avalon Lancers defeated Thacher, 20-7, behind the tough power
running of Juan Carlos Martin and a defense that kept Toad ball-carriers
locked down and the powerful Thacher air attack out of the end
Thacher (8-2), plagued by turnovers, had to work from behind
all night. Leading 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Avalon's Pablo
Murillo picked off Toad quarterback Brenton Sullivan twice to
thwart two potential game-tying drives.
The Toads had one opportunity to regain the football with time
for a last-ditch attempt to even things up. As in its first round
game, Thacher needed a big stop late in the fourth quarter, but
this time the defense couldn't make the crucial play.
Avalon (10-1), champions of the Four Corners League, faced third
and long after a penalty. Thacher cornerback Tyler Caldwell hustled
over to the sideline. "What do you want me to do, coach?"
"I want you go get the football!" Hooper said and his
team responded with intense pursuit at the line as Avalon quarterback
Chris Bogard moved to his right. But Lancer receiver Chris Moonan
took the ball on a reverse and got around the corner, dashing
33 yards down the eastern sideline for the score that ended Thacher's
"That's sports," said Sullivan afterward. "We
gave it our all, so at least we can hold our heads high."
Moonan and Murillo provided Avalon the speed to complement Martin's
power. Murillo rushed 17 times for 70 yards and set up the game's
first score with a fumble recovery. Martin barreled in from a
yard out to cap the drive but the PAT was wide left. With less
than three minutes gone in the second quarter, Avalon had a 6-0
The Toads responded with a solid drive of their own, but Charlie
Munzig's 30-yard field goal was negated on a motion penalty,
then Sullivan's fourth-down pass was dropped on a fake field
Thacher got back into it on its next possession. Sullivan hooked
up with receiver Tyler Caldwell for the longest play from scrimmage
all night, a 44-yard pass completion to the Lancer 8-yard line.
Caldwell then took the ball to the 1-yard line on a reverse.
Two plays later, Gabe Yette found a gap to score his third touchdown
of the playoffs. Munzig added the PAT to give Thacher a one-point
Avalon countered near the end of the third quarter. After Richard
Smith made a tackle for a loss, Robert Cerda and Owili Eison
combined on a vicious hit to force third and goal from the four.
But Bogard scored on the keeper, capping a monster six-minute
drive. Murillo added the two point conversion on an option play
to give Avalon a 14-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
That was all the cushion the Lancers would need.
Though Thacher was on the wrong end of the scoreboard, coach
Hooper applauded his team's toughness and resiliency. "I
know we got beat but I thought we were the more physical team,"
he said. "We were on the right end of most of the hits."
His two biggest stars came up roses when it counted. Despite
the interceptions, Sullivan threw 21 times, completing 11 passes
for 162 yards. Several would-be completions were called back
on penalties, one was 6 inches out of bounds and another was
Caldwell was spectacular as usual. He led Thacher with 160 all-purpose
yards and lost credit for two catches on penalty calls. On the
second, a holding call, he made what would have been the play
of the night, beautifully outleaping Moonan and a second defender
to haul in a 30-yard bomb, which Sullivan had hoisted up for
The mood was positive as Hooper emotionally addressed his gathered
troops after the final whistle. "This year has exceeded
everything I ever dreamed of," he said. "You've started
such a great tradition at this school. You've got a ton to be
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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TYLER CALDWELL TAKES a desperate leap at Chris Moonan last Friday
evening in the second round of the Eight Man-Large CIF football
playoffs. The Thacher Toads end their first-ever football season
with eight wins and two losses overall.