Standing on the field of the Rose Bowl during the 46 of the CIF-Southern Sectionth Championship Football Press Conference and Luncheon Representing Valley Christian High (left to right) are Junior Tyler Hayes, Junior Isaiah Jordan, Senior Major Brown, First-Year Head Coach Nicholas Walker, Junior Joe DeYoung, Senior Nick Bozanic, Sophomore Jojo Apisala and Senior Micha Maurer. The Defenders meet Lancaster High for the Division 12 Championship on Saturday. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing Photographer.
NOVEMBER 24, 2022
By Loren Kopff • @Lorenkopff on Twitter
On August 19, Valley Christian High freshman head coach Nick Walker was greeted with a 35-0 loss to El Dorado High and quarterback duties were shared by senior Kaden Struiksma and sophomore Keiran Edmundson. The defensemen would win two of their first eight games, both against ABC Unified School District opponents, and finished the regular season in fifth place in the new all-football Ironwood League.
But three straight wins and four in their last five games have landed the maroon and gold in the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 championship game. The Defenders (6-7), second in the division, will attend Lancaster High (8-5) at 7pm on Saturday. For VC, it is the sixth time the school has enrolled with nearly 600 enrollments in 2021. In the past, the program has played for a championship, winning them in 1985, 1994 and 2016.
“I said we can go 1-9 or 9-3,” Walker recalled. “It can go in any direction, and it didn’t go in any direction. It just went our way. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Oh man, this is how it’s supposed to end; That’s how it should be’. It’s magic, man, it’s magic.”
Lancaster does not have a great football history as the school was founded in 1995 with an enrollment of over 2,600 in 2021 and has endured a streak of 14 straight losses with their eight wins. During this period of futility, Lancaster had not won more than three games in any season. In some ways, both teams are the same in 2022, but in some ways, they’re not.
Both have conceded more points than points, with VC’s highest performance coming in a 46-5 win on September 16, while the defenders have gone over 30 points five times, including a 35-34 double win in overtime in the second round . The team was led by junior quarterback Joe DeYoung (1,359 yards, nine touchdowns), sophomore running back Jojo Apisala (729 yards, 10 touchdowns), senior wide receiver Casey Bouma (54 receptions, 892 yards, five touchdowns), Micah Maurer (30 receptions, 485 yards, six touchdowns) and Nick Bozanic (17 receptions, 471 yards, four touchdowns). Junior wide receiver Isaiah Jordan also had 30 catches for 411 yards and had three goals.
On defense, Apisala and Bouma have featured all over the field with 135 and 103 tackles, respectively, while freshman middle linebacker Cole Hefner is next with 82 tackles. The Defenders have sacked opposing quarterbacks 34 times from 10 different players, with Apisala leading the way with eight, followed by a half-dozen from senior lineman Johnny Miller.
“I trusted the process,” Apisala said of the team’s slow start. “I’d say it’s a build-up year and I’d say we’ve just found our foundation with new coaches, new staff and new players. We are a very young team; We only have six seniors on the team. I still have hope for the next few years.”
Lancaster played all 10 regular-season games against teams from Antelope Valley or the High Desert and started the season with a smashing shutout loss to Serrano High and two direct returns with just one possession. The Eagles then alternated the next three games with a pair of shutouts and a whitewash to Quartz Hill High. In fact, Lancaster were shut out three times, giving up 139 points in those games while shutting out two opponents with a combined score of 74-0. The second-place team, from the Golden League team that shares Palmdale High, scored at least 40 points three times but conceded over 30 points in four of the five losses.
The Eagles have run almost twice as often as they have passed as Ashton Mitchell has gained 1,168 yards on 173 carries with 10 touchdowns scored. The next leading rusher is quarterback Cedric SaMarion, who has 646 yards and six points. He’s also passed for 1,157 yards and 13 touchdowns, and his favorite target is Chowlyn Hughes (31 receptions, 663 yards, seven touchdowns).
“They will attack us,” Walker said. They have great linemen; They will lie down on us. But eventually we will overtake them. We will do that. And that’s just being honest with you. We are faster than any team in our division.”
“It feels unreal,” Apisala said. “I’m very excited and feel very blessed to say I’m on my way to the championship [game].”
Prognosis: Lancaster 35, VC 34
Last week: 1-0
Previous season: 46-19-1
The VC boys finished seventh in the CIF SS Championships at Mt. San Antonio College last Saturday and advanced to the State Championships on Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno. The Defenders, who accumulated 201 team points, were the last Division 5 team to qualify for the state championships. Senior Matthew Kubler finished third with a time of 15:37 while sophomore Jack Gisler (34th, 17:17) was the next VC runner to cross the finish line. Rounding out the rest of the team are seniors Peter Kolostian and Steven Nour, juniors Caleb O’Conner and Matthew Vreeke, and freshman Wyatt Barker.
Competing in Division 3, the Norwalk girls also ran in the Division Finals, earning 360 team points. Senior Gabriela Felix was 37th place with a time of 19:48, while the next Lancer runner senior Evelyn Mejia (68th, 20:51). Three of the other five Norwalk runners are seniors.