MANHATTAN BEACH — Golden Valley senior Ahvie Harris laid out a lofty yet simple goal for the Grizzlies this season after losing in the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 semifinals last year.
“We wanted to start this thing in September and finish it in December,” Harris said Friday night.
For the first time in school history, the Grizzlies will be playing December football and for a CIF-SS title.
Golden Valley (8-5) held on for a 20-18 win at Mira Costa (6-7), sending the team into a frenzy at midfield when time expired and into the Division 6 title game next Saturday against Bishop Diego.
Jalin Lewis intercepted a Nick Carpino pass – his second of the game – with 1:44 to play, putting the Grizzlies into victory formation and unprecedented postseason territory. Lewis finished with six rushes for 50 yards and two receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown as well.
“We’re going to the championship, baby. That’s all that was in my head,” said Lewis on his reaction to the takeaway. “We came out here and executed on both sides of the field and did what we had to do.”
The Grizzlies forced Mira Costa to turn the ball over on downs twice through its five second-half possessions. The Mustangs made it a two-point game on a 2-yard rush and subsequent two-point conversion from Jonah Tavai, with a little over nine minutes to play. But they wouldn’t find the end zone again.
“It means everything to get to this point,” said Grizzlies coach Dan Kelley, who received a Gatorade shower in the postgame huddle. “The head coach gets a lot of the credit sometimes, but these kids and these coaches deserve all of it. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
Lewis opened the game’s scoring on the Grizzlies second possession, hauling in a 21-yard pass from Zack Chevalier. Golden Valley set itself up on Mira Costa’s 21 thanks to a blocked punt by Johnathan Kaelin.
“That gave us a jump,” Lewis said, “and we finished it.”
After a 28-yard touchdown from Carpino to Cole Trejo, Harris answered with a 20-yard touchdown catch from Chevalier.
“It was a double-move and we caught them in man-to-man coverage,” Harris said. “Zack put it in there perfectly.”
Golden Valley rarely employed its wildcat formation in the victory but USC commit DeGabriel Floyd still found the end zone on a 69-yard punt return up the sideline off a line-drive kick. Floyd’s touchdown staked the Grizzlies to a 20-10 halftime lead. Mira Costa added a 27-yard field goal with two seconds before the half.
“It was kind of an easy touchdown, in my opinion,” Floyd said. “The ball came right to me. I kind of just stutter-stepped around a couple defenders and they weren’t able to catch me.”
Two-way standout D.J. Turner exited with an injury after the team’s second possession of the night but returned in the second half. Turner had nine carries for 43 yards while Aidan Baptiste logged six carries for 50 yards.
The Grizzlies will host Bishop Diego next Friday in the CIF-SS Division 6 final.