Santa Clarita Christian football (7-3) notched its first playoff win since the program’s rebirth with a 40-12 win over San Luis Obispo Classical (2-5) on Saturday at Hart.
SCCS was dynamic through the air, in the ground game while the defense was all over the Grizzlies on nearly every play.
Wide receiver Wyatt Shields exploded for a season-best seven catches for 113 yards and three touchdown touchdowns. Shields had just 20 receptions for 185 yards with two receiving touchdowns this regular season. He surpassed his total touchdowns in just the first half of Saturday’s game.
“Game plan was just to come out strong, firing early and get on the board early,” said Shields. “I think it worked out, with the way they were running their defense, I could get open.”
Sophomore Eli Duhm led the Cardinal defense with three interceptions. SCCS had five turnovers all together.
SCCS opened up the game with touchdowns on its opening drives.
Quarterback Cayden Rappleye rushed in the first of two scores on the first drive then hit Shields for a 25-yard score on the second drive.
Rappleye went well over 300 total yards and scored five touchdowns.
“The offense has been great overall,” said Rappleye. “The line has been holding up and keep their blocks. The wide receivers are doing as much as they can to fight for yards. It’s just been good overall.”
The Cardinal defense was stellar throughout and didn’t give up a first down until the second quarter.
The Grizzlies struggled plenty against a stiff defense but had plenty of self-inflicted wounds with dropped passes and penalties.
SLOC managed to build up a little momentum after forcing a punt and then intercepting Rappleye on SCCS’ third and fourth drive.
The Cards would still hold the Grizzlies’ offense in check and contain them to minimal yardage in the first half.
Shields would break free for big plays to end the next two SCCS drives with long touchdowns to go up 27-0 just before the half.
SLOC would try and find some offense on its last play of the half but Rappleye intercepted the deep heave with a few seconds to go in the half. Cardinals tight end Landon Hermanson would then take a short pass play an inch away from the house with a 42-yard reception. Hermanson was forced out of bounds just a hair before the pile-on, but SCCS would still feel good about its lead going into the halftime break.
Cards running back Timmy Taddler ended a quick, second-half opening drive with a 2-yard score.
There would be no shutout thanks to a near pick-six from SLOC sophomore Jadon Garrity. Rappeleye was able to run down Garrity but the play set up the Grizzlies’ first score.
Quarterback Benjamin Hamill found Haaken Theule for a 9-yard touchdown to finally get SLOC on the board in the third quarter.
Taddler would get another goal line rush but fumbled the ball away. The Cardinal defense would hold strong with their backs up against the wall and forced a Grizzly fumble a few plays later leading to another Rappleye rushing score.
Rappleye now has two rushing scores in four straight games.
SLOC took a handful of deep shots throughout the game but had no luck until the fourth quarter. Hamill hit Joseph Moore for a whopping 55-yard touchdown. The Grizzlies were nowhere near back in the game but were showing no signs of surrender down 40-12.
“I think we played pretty good all around,” said Shields. “There’s some stuff we could fix on both sides of the ball but I think overall everyone did their part.”
SCCS went into victory formation with two minutes left in the game to officially give Cardinals head coach Austin Fry his first career playoff win as a head coach.
“To get the actual playoff win, I don’t want to say it’s justified but it’s deserved for what we worked to do,” said Fry.
The Cardinals will advance to CIF Division 2 quarterfinals for a rematch with the Coast Union Broncos (8-2). Coast won its matchup with SCCS 36-14 earlier this year in Fry’s one missed game.
The team is riding high and looking forward to another shot at the Broncos. The two will face off for a shot at the semis next weekend with game details to be determined.
“I feel better going into Coast Union quite simply because I’ll be there this time,” said Fry. “Coast Union is big and strong, they can compete with anybody. We’re going to have to play a really tight game and give it our best.”