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Can the Valley Christian Academy Lions make in three straight?

“It’s tough to beat any team three times in a row,” said VCA head coach and Athletic Director Pete Fortier on Tuesday night.

But the Lions are going to have to do that to advance in the CIF Southern Section 8-man Division 2 football playoffs.

The Lions (6-2, 3-0 Coast Valley League) host the Calvary Baptist Cougars (6-2, 2-0 Omega League) Friday night at 5 p.m. in the opening round of the Division 2 playoffs having won their last two meetings with the Cougars.

VCA, the overall No. 3 seed, defeated Calvary Baptist, the No. 6 seed, 44-14 on Oct. 21.

The Lions scored twice in the opening quarter, took a 24-8 lead into halftime and then blew the game open with a 20-point third quarter.

The teams also faced off in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, a 58-20 VCA win.

It’s also the third straight time the Cougars have to travel the 180 mile distance from their home in La Verne.

“They don’t have a lot of players,” said Fortier. “They had 10 suit up the last time we played but they’ve had a couple injuries so two of their players are questionable right now. They could be bringing only eight.”

VCA has depth on its side with 18 players on its roster.

“They’re a small, physical team. They’re well coached and we’re not taking them lightly,” said Fortier. “Their quarterback (Jeremiah Frisco) is fast. He reads defenses well and makes a lot of plays, on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a fullback/linebacker (Matthew Romo) who’s a stud.”

The Lions are healthy heading into the game.

Their biggest question mark has been Fortier who has been battling kidney stones.

“I’d say I’m about 90 percent but I expect to be back on the sidelines,” said Fortier. “The kids are all healthy. That’s the biggest thing.”

The Lions will be led by sophomore quarterback Tyler McCoy.

In this season’s Calvary Baptist game, McCoy carried the ball 10 times for 98 yards and one touchdown.

He also threw three touchdown passes — two to Andrew Sparlin and one to Timmy Trenkle — going 9-for-18 passing for 143 yards.

Adam Aldana carried the ball 13 times, gaining 152 yards and scoring twice.

Matthew Holihan, Daniel Murillo, Juan Perez and Ethan McCoy will also be called upon to run the ball, keeping the defense from keying on Aldana and Tyler McCoy.

Ethan McCoy led the Lions swarming defense with 15 tackles and one sack.

“We’re not going to overlook Calvary, not get ahead of ourselves,” said Fortier. “We knocked them out of the playoffs last year. They’re hoping to knock us out this year. They’ve seen us, they’ve played us. They know what we’re bringing to the table. We have to trust that we’re playing even better now than when we last played them. Only time will tell.”

Valley Christian’s practices this week have been going well, according to Fortier.

The team worked on its offense during Monday’s practice and then switched the focus to defense on Tuesday.

The Division 2 playoffs have just eight teams in this year’s bracket, which means Friday’s game is in the quarterfinal round.

“That means we’ve got to win three games — we’ve got three weeks to win a CIF championship,” said Fortier. “The boys are on board.”

If the Lions do win, they’ll be on the road against the winner of the Bloomington Christian/Noli Indian game.

“If we win, we’d be on the road against Noli (the No. 7 seed) no matter what and if Bloomington Christian (the No. 2 seed) wins, which we expect, we have to go there because we lost the coin toss.”

That game will be played on Saturday, Nov. 17.

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Senior Sports Reporter