Balanced Cardinals offense helps team to 40-26 victory
Santa Clarita Christian football is off to a flying start to the 2023 season, picking up a 40-26 victory over the hosting Santa Clara Saints (0-1) on Friday.
The Cardinals (1-0) used a balanced offense throughout, according to head coach Austin Fry, but were led by junior running back Jonathan Boelter’s 200 yards on the ground and two touchdowns on the ground.
Fry was impressed not just with Boelter, but the way everyone around him was creating space for him to run.
“A lot of it is him, but it’s also our line just came out and just did their job like every play,” Fry said. “Our wide receivers blocked down field. You don’t get to the second level on every play just because your linemen are hitting the first level — they’re moving on to their secondary assignments.”
Junior quarterback Cayden Rappleye was efficient, throwing for 108 yards and two touchdowns while completing 7 of 13 passes, though he did throw one interception. Both touchdowns went to juniors Eli Duhm and Wyatt Shields.
Rappleye added 129 yards and a touchdown as a runner.
“Anytime you can build an offense from the run game, it opens up the pass game when you need it to, and so I think that’s kind of what we saw,” Fry said. “It opened up a couple of play action passes, and then a couple of red zone passes that may not have been there if we had to pass the ball 20 or 30 times.”
Duhm, the Cardinals’ top receiver last year, only had the one catch but did showcase his speed on a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“The (punter) had a leg,” Fry said. “He got it down to the 5-yard line, but the problem with that is you outkick your coverage and with a guy like Eli, you give him that much space … You know, we had a couple of key blocks down the field, Cayden was one of them, and that just opened up an opportunity for Eli to just be fast, which he is.”
Shields led the Cardinals with three catches for 70 yards.
On defense, Fry said he employed more of a conservative approach, though the Cardinals were still able to rack up 3.5 sacks and seven total tackles for loss. Senior Jude Patton had two of those tackles in the backfield and led the Cardinals with 13 total tackles. Boelter and seniors Noah Butler and Zach Ervin picked up one sack apiece.
Fry was happy to see Butler moving well after suffering a knee injury last season that ultimately required surgery.
“Having Noah back was huge,” Fry said. “To watch him play, you know, a full game — and a challenging game, both O-line and D-line — he did a great job.”
It wasn’t a perfect game for the Cardinals, but Fry was pleased with getting a victory in the season opener. He’ll be looking for another good showing when SCCS takes on United Christian Academy (0-1) on Saturday at College of the Canyons, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
“Anytime you can get away with a win, and a substantial win, in my opinion, and then still have some pretty immediately fixable things, on the agenda, I mean, that’s just a good sign overall,” Fry said. “The more I thought about it, the more I watched the film, I felt like we did play really well.”