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Sierra Canyon Shuts The Door on Cinderella

Photo by Joe Torosian

Arroyo linebacker Zach Daniels with third quarter fumble recovery that halted a Sierra Canyon drive.

By Joe Torosian

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By Joe Torosian

El Monte, CA – Two late touchdowns in the span of 16 seconds crushed the Arroyo Knights and the glass slipper they were attempting to wear Friday night as the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers took the Mid-Valley Division quarterfinal match between the schools 28-20.

Arroyo had this game. As late as 9:08 P.M., on November 16th the moment belonged to the Knights.

Sierra Canyon, trailing 20-14, with 2:37 to play was in trouble.

On first and ten from its 36 Andre Nunez’ deep pass fell incomplete. On second and ten Nunez was sacked by Arroyo defensive end Aaron Landry for a 4-yard loss. On third and 16 Nunez pass was knocked away to bring about the fourth down.

…And the Trailblazers responded.

On fourth and 14 from its own 32 Sierra Canyon got the play it needed to stay alive. Nunez hit Brian Tucker on a short pass and the senior shook off one tackler, then another, before knifing his way 14 full yards and inch for the first down.

The next play was an 17-yard pass to Brandyn Lee. The one after that for Arroyo fans “was like someone took a knife, edgy and dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of the soul’…Nunez found Isaiah Renfro on a route down the visitors sideline. The receiver covered the final 25-yards and the game was briefly tied at 20 before Noah Grablich drilled home the extra-point for the lead.

The kick-off was lost, the fumble recovered, and returned by the Trailblazers to the Arroyo seven. One play later Blade Brady blasted up the middle through helmet, pads, flesh, and bone to paydirt and the score was 28-20 with 1:49 to play.

The storyline, if there should be one beyond who wins the game, does go to the Arroyo defense. Against the defending state champs they forced two fumbles. The first, late in the first quarter, came when Andre Kerkhoff, on a blitz, jumped in front of a Nunez pitch to Xavier Menifield and returned 78-yards for the game’s first score.

The second came in the second half when Menifield was hit hard after an 8-yard run and Zach Daniels recovered to stop a Trailblazer drive.

In all the Knights defense forced the two turnovers, three turnovers on downs, and four sacks (James Rivera 2, Aaron Landry, Marcos Lopez). SC’s Menifield came into the game with over 1,400 yards rushing, averaging 11 yards per carry, and 18 touchdowns. After 15 carries Friday night he had gained only 45 yards.

The Kerkhoff touchdown (the point after was blocked) would hold until late in the first half when Nunez scrambled 22-yards to put his team ahead 7-6.

Arroyo responded on its next drive with its first two first downs of the night, and a 63-yard catch and run from Peter Aholoka. Aholoka would smash his way into the endzone with 1:06 left in second quarter. The two-point attempt failed.

Still not ready to go into the locker room. Sierra Canyon moved themselves to the Knights 40 and Nunez went deep to Lee in the end zone. The receiver caught the ball between two defenders to make it 14-12 at the break.

Arroyo retook the lead with 4:53 to go in the third going 65 yards on eight plays before quarterback Nathan Coto carried and was carried, ala rugby scrum, 11-yards across the goal line. He then added the deuce to bring the score to 20-14.

After Daniels recovered the fumble to end the next SC possession, the Knights moved the ball upfield keyed by a 24-yard run by Aholoka. They reached the Trailblazer’s 20 but a fourth down and three screen pass from Coto to Aholoka was stopped when Coto’s arm was hit throwing the ball and fell incomplete.

“We convert that and score, we win the game,” said Arroyo OC Chris MacMillan.

Aholoka finished the game with 52 yards on 16 carries. Coto completed 10 of 20 for 126 yards.

Sierra Canyon quarterback Nunez ended the contest 16 of 22 for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

“We hang our hat on our running game,” said SC HC John Ellinghouse. “Arroyo made us change that tonight. All credit to them they played a tremendous game.”

“If they didn’t know who we were before, they who we are now,” said Knights HC Jim Singiser. “They know we play football here in El Monte. That’s all I got to say.”

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News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.
Sierra Canyon Shuts The Door on Cinderella