Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals football exploded in the second half of its Heritage League game with the Faith Baptist Contenders.
SCCS won the game 40-20 after scoring 21 unanswered points and shutting out the Contenders (4-3, 1-2) in the second half at College of the Canyons.
The Cardinals (5-2, 2-0) dominated early in the game and went up 19-6 in the first half. However, a couple of explosive plays added up and quickly turned SCCS’ smooth sailing into a one-point deficit heading into the half.
Cards quarterback Cayden Rappleye made an impact all over the field during the run. Rappleye had multiple pass deflections, an interception, one touchdown pass and a solid haul of rushing yards in the third quarter alone.
Rappleye took four straight quarterback keepers for 28 yards before going to the air. The Cards’ signal caller then hit Eli Duhm for a 19-yard TD pass, the duo’s second score of the day, to go up 33-20. Duhm then set up the final score of the game with the second of his three interceptions on Faith quarterback Christian Kim.
Duhm finished the game with eight catches for 113 yards, two receiving TDs and one rushing touchdown.
Duhm has missed some time this season but looked like his old self with three total TDs and two interceptions in his return to the Cardinals.
“It felt good to have Eli back,” Rappleye said. “It’s always good. You know what they say, when he’s even he’s leaving, so just throw it up to No. 4.”
SCCS coach Austin Fry was pleased with his two juniors’ performances.
“Cayden’s easy to talk about, he’s just a good football player through and through,” Fry said. “Putting the ball in his hands is an easy choice. I think having Eli back around also gives Cayden a lot more confidence. He’s able to say, ‘I have potentially the best guy in the field.’”
Faith nearly fought its way back into the game but the Cardinals came up with two clutch picks in the red zone to seal the second-half shutout.
Senior Jude Patton led the Cardinals’ defense with 15 tackles.
This game was a special one for Fry, a Faith Baptist alumnus. Fry spent his varsity years at the powerhouse when the team dominated not only the Heritage League, but also all of eight-man football.
“It’s huge. I told the guys that Faith is really a perennial contender,” Fry said. “The bottom line is the standard in eight-man football is Faith Baptist. That’s both in terms of competition but also character. I take a lot of what I do from what I learned at Faith. For me, winning this game, it’s more than just a win or even a league win. I just love being able to compete with them because I loved my time there so it’s very personal for me in a very good way.”
Two of Fry’s teams went deep into the CIF playoffs and were, ironically enough, eliminated by SCCS.
The Cardinals are now back in the win column after a beatdown from the Flintridge Prep Wolves.
“All of us have been putting in the work, especially after a loss last week to Flintridge,” Rappleye said. “We didn’t play well at all. So, with that loss, coming into today, our mindset has been that we have to put in the work. I think it just led into this week for us wanting to win more and just go after and go get it done.”
The Cardinals control their own destiny and have a shot at bringing home a Heritage League championship. Saturday’s league battle was SCCS’ final home game of the regular season, so the title will have to be won on the road.
Fry will lead his team into battle on the road Friday against the Desert Christian Knights. Only SCCS and the Lancaster Baptist Eagles remain undefeated in league play. Whether either one loses or not, the league title will be on the line the following week when the Cardinals head up north to take on the Eagles.
“Putting the work in at practice and staying focused on our assignments,” Rappleye said on what it’ll take to win league. “And to not think that we are better than any other team out here. Every team is a difficult opponent and we have to go out there and give it our all.”
SCCS takes on Desert Christian on Friday at 7 p.m.