The Trinity Classical Academy football team huddled together at midfield amongst friends and family after a first-round exit in the CIF-Southern Section Division 14 playoffs. The Knights lost to South Torrance 46-6 at Canyon High School on Saturday.
Reflecting back on the historic season, the Knights coaching staff took turns handing out offensive and defensive awards, as senior offensive lineman Zackary Meadows was awarded the Knights’ shield and defensive lineman Aidan Duhm the sword for their play on the day and throughout the year.
With hardly a dry eye on the field, seniors like Meadows, Kyle Fields, Rick Roberts and Greg Salazar took turns saying some encouraging words about this year’s team and the future of the Knights’ program.
“We have some players, it ain’t over for them,” Roberts said. “Fill in a couple of gaps here and there and they’re going further than this year’s team went. This team’s only going to get better.”
The Knights entered Saturday’s contest hopeful that the program’s first-ever Academy League title-winning team would live to fight another day against a strong Pioneer League third-place team in South Torrance.
After Trinity (9-2) punted on its first drive, South took over on the Knights’ 37-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Trinity defensive lineman Aidan Duhm intercepted a pass. As he was running, the ball was punched out and recovered by South at midfield to keep the Spartans’ drive alive.
The Spartans drove down the field and scored the game’s first points as Cade Bargar caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Drew Nash.
On the ensuing drive, Trinity drove moved down the field and Lucas Mendoza hauled in a pass from Roberts. As he turned upfield, Mendoza lost control of the ball, which was the second turnover in as many drives for the Knights.
“I was hoping that we could recover from them,” said Trinity head coach Les Robinson. “They could have given us a lot of life, but we didn’t recover. I’m not surprised by the fact of how young we are.”
However, the Spartans’ drive stalled and they punted the ball a couple plays later.
After a Trinity three-and-out, the Spartans took over at the Knights’ 38-yard line and drove down the field to score their second touchdown of the night on a 30-yard run by Cade Bargar with 10:12 left in the first half.
The Knights returned the favor for their first score of the game on a 14-play drive that was capped by a Lucas Mendoza five-yard touchdown reception with 6:15 left. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful as the Knights trailed 15-6.
The Spartans scored once again, just before the halftime whistle to hold a 22-6 lead.
Picking up where they left off, South (7-4) scored on its first two possessions of the second half to pull ahead 32-6 with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
Still, the Knights’ offense couldn’t get going and punted on another three-and-out. With South driving, Fields gave the Knights some life as he intercepted a pass on the Knights’ five-yard line and returned it to the 23 with under three minutes to go in the quarter.
Once again, the Knights couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and turned the ball over on downs.
South finished the matchup by scoring two more times to balloon the lead and win the game by double digits to advance to the second round, where they will play Portola at 7:30 p.m on Friday.
Roberts finished the game 25-36 for 137 yards, one touchdown and one interception and Fields, also a senior, caught six passes for 23 yards.
“It’s crazy, I was seven when I suited up for Warriors football on this field and it’s crazy to think how fast it’s gone by,” Roberts said.
“Playing with Kyle (Fields) all these years too and when I threw him that last pass, I broke down on the sideline because I knew that was it. Both of us have a lot of football left in us, maybe even go play somewhere together, that’s a possibility. I have a lot of love for my boys right now.”
AJ Horning led the team with seven receptions for 44 yards and Mendoza had the Knights’ lone touchdown going six for 35 on the way.
“People always think we are some small Christian school and they are going to beat us, but we have a lot of fight in our heart and I think that’s what helps us,” said junior Zach Ball. “This year, especially, we were really a team and every time we came out we fought together and played hard.”