Lions tame top-seeded Rangers in semifinals
By Jesse Phelps
An incredible season that saw
the Rangers go undefeated in league and earn the No. 1 seed in
the CIF-SS Division XI polls came to an end in the CIF-SS Toyota
Football Championships semifinals Friday night in Westlake Village.
In a rematch of the game that gave Nordhoff (10-3) the league
title, this time it was the Oaks Christian Lions that triumphed,
33-14, behind the quick legs of Marc Tyler, Aaron Ware, Joe Giuliani
and Mark Richardson.
The game was tight in the first half. For a time, the teams exchanged
blow for blow. Nordhoff scored on its opening drive when James
Martinez found pay dirt for the first time all season. But the
Rangers couldn't keep the momentum as they gave up a 34-yard
kickoff return, followed immediately by a 54-yard scoring run
to even the score.
The Oaks Christian (11-2) defense then dug in, holding the Rangers
to two consecutive three-and-outs, even after Garrett Wyatt recovered
a fumble to give the Rangers good field position on their third
The Lions went 76 yards on their next possession, capping the
drive with a 37-yard pass from quarterback Joey Halzle to Giuliani,
to take a 14-7 lead near the start of the second quarter.
Then it was Nordhoff's turn to put together a long drive. Hayden
Herbruck's 26-yard reception was the big gainer as the Rangers
went 71 yards in 11 plays to tie it. Will Strong (19 carries
for 78 yards) scored his 24th touchdown of the year to complete
Nordhoff had a golden opportunity to grab the lead back minutes
later. Oaks Christian got tricky, trying a double forward pass
which a wide-open Richardson bobbled and dropped. That forced
a punt, which Micah Reed blocked, setting the Rangers up at their
own 40 with 6:45 to go before halftime.
But Oaks Christian managed to sack Nordhoff quarterback Ryan
Whitcomb twice to force a Clark Bigler punt. Minutes later, Richardson
atoned for his drop with a nice grab of a perfect pass in the
end zone, giving the Lions a lead they would never relinquish.
In the first matchup between the two teams, Nordhoff reeled off
22 consecutive points to earn the victory, mainly attributable
to a size and strength advantage in the trenches.
This time, the Rangers tired first and the speed of Oaks Christian
proved deadly in the second half.
Nobody scored in the third, but by the fourth, the Rangers began
to look tired. First Ware scored, then Tyler on a 52-yard scamper.
Perhaps realizing the end was near, Strong yelled as he came
off the field after Tyler's touchdown, "Make an effort!"
After time expired on game and season, Nordhoff coach Cliff Farrar
said he knew his team had, in fact, given it all they had.
"Our kids never quit," he said. "That's what made
us a champion this year."
And though they didn't add the CIF crown, undefeated champions
of the Tri-Valley League, a league that placed four teams in
the semifinals of the divisional play-offs isn't bad at all.
Farrar said he was particularly proud of the seniors and of Will
Strong, who carried a huge load for the team all year.
"Great group of kids," he said. "Out of all the
years I've been here, I've been here 17 years, this has been
a particularly super group."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
CHESSER FIGHTS TO KEEP his footing during Nordhoff's CIF-SS Toyota
Division XI Football Championship semifinal game against Oaks
Christian last Friday night.