Santa Clarita Christian School opens San Joaquin League play Thursday night and finds itself in a possible battle for the league title right at the onset.
The Cardinals (5-0) head to Trabuco Hills High School to take on Saddleback Valley Christian, which has won at least a share of the league title the last 10 seasons. The Warriors (4-1) accounted for SCCS’s only league loss last season, a one-point defeat in the regular-season finale.
“We’ve been a bit more focused at practice, just understanding the type of team we’re playing,” junior quarterback Blake Kirshner said. “We’re not going to try and change anything up, though. What we’ve been doing has obviously been working.”
The chips are already stacked against the Cardinals ahead of the pivotal matchup. They’ve only been able to practice twice this week, having won Saturday against Trinity Classical Academy.
That doesn’t bother Kirshner, who struggled in the win over the Knights, throwing a season-high three interceptions.
“Waiting until Friday and Saturday, you can get antsy sometimes,” Kirshner said. “I don’t think energy is going to be an issue. We all know what’s on the line.”
Senior cornerback Blaike Orth may have the biggest assignment of the night — Saddleback wideout Jack DeAvila, who’s second in the league with 546 yards to go with five touchdowns.
“I’m just going to press him the whole time and have a safety over top,” Orth said. “We’ll have double-coverage, basically. Whichever side of the field he’s on. I’m going to follow him.”
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The Cardinals will be tasked with delaying a breakthrough performance from the Warriors’ offense, which has tallied just seven points over its last two games.
SCCS has been up to that kind of challenge on defense, holding teams under 20 points in four of their five wins.
“We’re way more aggressive than we’ve ever been,” Orth said, singling out defensive back Caden Brenner and linebacker Ethan Schwesinger as major factors in the success
The Cardinals enter ranked sixth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 13 polls while the Warriors are unranked in Division 9.