The Valley Christian Academy Lions found themselves in a real catfight with the La Verne Calvary Baptist Cougars Friday night in the CIF Southern Section 8-man football playoffs.
The score was tied 20-all at the half before the Lions’ defense stiffened and their offense broke through for three second-half scores on the way to a 40-20 victory in a Divison 2 quarterfinal matchup.
It was VCA’s third straight win over Calvary Baptist.
VCA, the division's No. 3 seed, defeated Calvary Baptist, the No. 6 seed, 44-14 on Oct. 21.
The teams also faced off in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, a 58-20 VCA win.
On Friday, the Lions rode the back of junior running back Adam Aldana who rushed for 193 yards on 19 carries, scoring three of the five Lions’ touchdowns.
Senior Ethan McCoy broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run and his younger brother, sophomore quarterback Tyler McCoy, used a quarterback sneak for a 1-yard touchdown run to round out the Lions’ scoring.
The Frisco brothers, junior quarterback Jeremiah and sophomore running back Elisha, carried the load for the Cougars.
Jeremiah Frisco ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 23 runs while Elisha Frisco added another 54 yards and one touchdown on 18 rushes.
There is strength in numbers and VCA had the numbers of their side, suiting up 18 players to the Cougars’ 10.
“But you can only play eight at a time,” said Valley Christian assistant coach and defensive coordinator Randy Stanford.
“They don’t have many players and the ones they do have were smaller than us,” said Valley Christian head coach Pete Fortier. “But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They came to play. They put up a heck of a fight.”
“We had 10 kids but they refuse to give up,” said Calvary Baptist head coach Tyler Blondi. “We were tied at the half — we should have been ahead — but mistakes hurt us and, at the end, we just didn't have the horses.”
Aldana gave the Lions good field position, returning the game’s opening kickoff to the 33 yard line, a 28 yard return.
But the Lions couldn’t find any rhythm and quickly found themselves facing a fourth-and-four from their own 39.
They Lions went for the first down but Tyler McCoy was sacked for a 7-yard loss – the only time he was sacked all night — and the Cougars took over at VCA’s 31.
“We came out kind of flat at the beginning,” said Fortier. “That first series — Aargh!”
Alternating between the Frisco brothers, the Cougars ran off a 7-play, 49-yard drive ending with a Jeremiah Frisco 1-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars went for a two-point conversion pass. VCA’s Richard Matias knocked the ball down but Calvary Baptist was on the board with a 6-0 lead with 7:30 left in the first quarter.
The Lions found some rhythm on their second offensive series.
After Aldana returned the kickoff to the 27, he popped off runs of 12, 25 and 9-yards to get the ball down to the Cougars’ seven.
Ethan McCoy powered through the middle of the line, down to the one. From there, Tyler McCoy pushed the pile into the end zone on a quarterback sneak.
Timmy Trenkle’s point after kick put VCA up 7-6 with 6-minutes left in the quarter,
Calvary Baptist began marching right back down field.
The Cougars looked unstoppable, using six plays to get down to the VCA 18.
But the Lions defense dug in.
First Ethan McCoy stuffed Elisha Frisco for no gain. Jeremiah Frisco then hit Matthew Romo with a flare pass behind the line of scrimmage and Matthew Holihan flattened him for a 4-yard loss.
On third down, Andrew Sparlin chased down Jeremiah Frisco, sacking him for a 13-yard loss and the Cougars were forced to punt.
On VCA’s second play, Ethan McCoy took a handoff, found a hole on the right side and was gone — 57-yards into the end zone. With Trenkle’s PAT, VCA was ahead 14-6 with 16-seconds left in the first quarter.
Then after gaining just two yards, the Cougars were forced to punt.
That didn’t go well.
A high snap went way over Romo’s head. He chased it down and tried to run but Holihan and Tyler McCoy were all over him and VCA took possession with a first-and-goal at the Cougars’ 7-yard line.
Then a break for the Cougars. On third-and-goal, Tyler McCoy fumbled and Elisha Frisco recovered.
On the ensuing drive, Jeremiah Frisco found the sideline and raced upfield for 41-yards. A VCA personal foul after the play added another 15 yards and Calvary was down to the VCA 20.
Three plays later, Jeremiah Frisco ran it in from the seven. The point after pass was blocked but Calvary Baptist narrowed the gap to 14-12 with 7:18 left in the half.
After forcing a VCA punt, the Cougars went back to work using a 10-play drive to go 63 yards with Elisha Frisco’s 2-yard run putting Calvary on top. Jeremiah Frisco’s pass to Romo was good for the two-point conversion and the Cougars were back on top, 20-14, with exactly 1-minute left in the half.
A 28-yard Aldana kickoff return got the ball into Calvary Baptist territory.
A 17-yard pass from Tyler to Ethan McCoy got the ball down to the 20.
Tyler McCoy then found Matias crossing over the middle, hit him with a strike at the 10 and Matias cruised untouched into the end zone to tie the game with 16-seconds left in the half.
“It’s tough any time you face a team twice in one season,” said Fortier. “They looked at the film, found some of our weaknesses and came out firing in the first half. But we made some adjustments at halftime. Our offense started to click and our defense just shut them down.”
Matias intercepted a pass on the Cougars’ opening drive of the second half.
Twelve plays later, Aldana scored from 5-yards out.
Aldana then recovered a Calvary Baptist fumble.
On the next play, Aldana took a handoff, ran to his right and found a wall, reversed field, found a hole and was gone on a 42-yard romp and a 34-20 VCA lead with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
The Lions put the game away in the fourth quarter after another Cougars fumble, putting together an 8-play, 63-yard drive with Aldana’s 15-yard touchdown run putting the game out of reach at 40-20 with 4:51 left in the game.
“Their coach has done a great job with his team,” said Fortier. “He doesn’t have many players but he sure gets the most out of the ones he has.”
“Valley Christian is a great team. They are well coached. The kids are very classy,” said Blondi. “But our kids — they surpassed everyone’s expectations and all of our key players will be back next year.”
Valley Christian is on the road for next week’s semifinals.
“It’s either a four-hour drive to Bloomington or a six-hour drive to Noli Indian,” said Fortier.