PALOS VERDES PENINSULA – The Orcutt Academy Spartans are heading to the semifinals.

The Spartans punched their ticket with a 55-37 victory over the Chadwick School Dolphins Friday afternoon at Chadwick’s stadium, sitting high in the hills overlooking Los Angeles.

The Spartans (9-2) handed the Dolphins (10-1) their first loss of the season, avenging a loss in the first round of last year’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

“It feels good,” said Orcutt Academy running back, defensive back and kicker Eddie Lundberg. “They were a tough opponent. They ran a hurry-up offense that we had to adjust to but once we did, we were okay.”

“That’s a class team over there,” said Orcutt Academy head coach Doug May. “Our guys stepped up to the challenge. They stayed with the game plan and it worked.”

“Our kids played hard, they tried their best. I’m really proud of the team,” said Chadwick head coach Tom Coate. “I thought our big three – quarterback Alex Rosso0 and running backs Zach Goodman and Oryan Hamlin played an excellent game. You have to admire their heart. They got banged up a little and still did a great job.”

It will be Orcutt Academy’s first-ever trip to the Division 1 semifinals.

In a game filled with big plays, the Spartans’ win was aided by four huge plays – a fumble recovery near the end of the first quarter; a Alex Sutton fumble recovery and run in the second quarter; a pass off a double reverse right after that; and a David Canable interception shortly after the second half kickoff.

The Spartans got the ball to begin the game but their drive stalled. Facing a fourth-and-12, they went for it and failed giving the Dolphins excellent field position at the Spartans’ 33.

Tailback Zach Goodman carried the ball on three straight plays, breaking through the Spartans’ defense on third down and romping for a 30-yard touchdown. The point after kick failed but Chadwick had an early 6-0 lead.

 “We pulled through,” said Orcutt Academy quarterback Drin Miller. “We came out strong. From our second offensive drive on we had a great mindset. We didn’t let small error get to us. I think this is the best we’ve played as a team all season long.”

Orcutt got its offense in rhythm and came down the field to score.

Two 13-yard Miller runs put the ball at the Dolphins’ 10. Miller then ran it into the end zone and, with Eddie Lundberg’s point after kick, the Spartans took a 7-6 lead midway through the quarter.

 The Dolphins answered with a 10-play, 58 yard drive, capped off with an Oryan Hamlin 2-yard touchdown run. The point after failed but Chadwick moved back in front 12-7.

An onside kick didn’t work, setting the Spartans up at their own 36 – just 44 yards from the end zone on 8-Man’s 80 yard field.

Miller scored the second of his four touchdowns – he also threw for two more – with a 1-yard run, ending an 8-play drive and, with Lundberg’s PAT, the Spartans’ held a 14-12 lead with 2:32 left in the first.

Back came the Dolphins.

But with a first-and-goal at the Spartans 3, the ball was knocked out of Hamlin’s hands and in the scrum that followed, the Spartans recovered the ball at the 3.

That was huge play No. 1.

Orcutt Academy turned that turnover into 7 points at the end of a 10-play, 77-yard drive that was kept alive by Miller’s 16-yard run and Lundberg’s 15-yard run that set Miller up for a 2-yard touchdown, a quick 13 or 14 point swing and a 21-12 lead early in the second quarter.

After Hamlin scored his second touchdown – this one on a 4-yard run – to cut Orcutt’s Lead to 21-18 midway through the second quarter, the Spartans responded with two huge plays just before the half.

On the next possession and deep in their own territory, Miller fumbled near the 18 yard line. Offensive lineman Alex Sutton scooped the ball up near the right sideline, circled back, crossed the field and headed up the left sideline for a 14-yard gain and a first down.

“That was just a smart, heads up football play,” said May. “We had the lead but that play changed the tide in our favor.”

Six plays later, Miller handed the ball off to Jadin Davis who gave the ball to Lundberg on a double reverse. Lundberg then pitched the ball back to Miller who calmly threw the ball to a wide-open Dylan McIntire who coasted into the end zone for a 45-yard score and a 28-18 lead.

“We’ve worked on that pass in practice all season,” said May. “That’s the first time it worked.”

On their next possession, Lundberg came out of the slot back position and Miller hit him in stride near the Dolphins 20. He cruised into the end zone to put the Spartans up 35-18 just seconds before halftime.

Chadwick opened the third quarter with a long drive that got down to Orcutt’s 5.

That’s when Orcutt’s David Canable jumped an Alex Rosso pass and returned the interception 40 yards for another big swing.

“David’s interception was something we practice. It’s our tip drill,” said May. “David stayed with their fullback, saw the pass coming and turned the play into a big one for us.”

The Spartans capitalized when Lundberg ran the ball in from the 5 and, although Lundberg missed the PAT, Orcutt Academy was firmly in control at 41-18 early in the third quarter.

The teams traded touchdowns, each scoring two more times, before time ran out on the Dolphins’ season.

“It was a fun game. You have to have the breaks go your way to win and they just didn’t go our way today,” said Coate. “But what a great team Orcutt Academy has – great players, great coaches we have a lot of respect for them and always enjoy playing and coaching against them.”

Goodman led the Chadwick attack with 195 yards on 30 carries.

Hamlin also had 30 carries that were good for 129 yards.

Rosso had an excellent day passing, except for the one interception, completing 9 of 11 passes for 162 yards.

But they were no match for Orcutt Academy.

Miller rushed 33 times for 216 yards; Lundberg added another 87 yards on 18 carries and Ben Luna-Vasquez picked up 10 on two runs and, of course there was Sutton’s big 14-yard gain.

Miller was also 5-for-7 passing for 96 yards.

Orcutt Academy will meet either No. 1 seed Baptist or Upland Christian Academy in next week’s semifinals.

“Every game is a battle,” said May. “We’ll be ready for whichever team wins that game.”