Clayton Valley Charter High School football has built its reputation over the past eight years with a hard-charging offensive attack that rarely, if ever, punts and attempts to overwhelm opponents with a grinding ground attack featuring fleet runningbacks and very selective passing.
That they would finally reach the summit of California football success last month in a 10-7 game that featured a stifling defensive effort would surprise most observers. However, that’s exactly what happened when the Ugly Eagles won the CIF 2-AA Bowl Game at Cerritos College over Aquinas of San Bernardino, which rode a 13-game winning streak into the championship game.
Not quite as surprising was De La Salle’s fourth successive loss in the State Open Division game 49-28 to No. 1 nationally ranked St. John Bosco the next day on the same field. After winning five of the first six Open Division Bowls this decade, the Spartans have fallen twice each to Bosco and Mater Dei, as the Southern California powerhouses have changed the equation in prep football with teams loaded with Division I players, many of whom are transfers to the two parochial schools.
Clayton Valley Charter faced near certain defeat in the Northern California Regional Division 2-AA finals a week earlier when they fell behind 26-14 to Elk Grove with less than five minutes remaining, but the Ugly Eagles rallied for two TDs in the final 2:22 to pull out a 28-26 victory.
That gave CVCHS its third State Bowl berth under coach Tim Murphy since 2014. The first two games resulted in losses 28-14 in 2015 to Narbonne and 34-33 a year earlier to Redlands East Valley.
Ugly Eagle D wins the day
The third time did prove the charm as the 10 points is the fewest ever in a CVCHS football victory since Murphy took over in 2012. Over those eight years their lowest point total in 87 victories had been 21 points (three times).
After being switched to the East Bay Athletic League last spring the Concord school won only one of five league games to finish the regular season 5-5. However, they had been reclassified out of the now defunct Open Division to D-II and their tough schedule earned them top seed in the North Coast Section playoffs and they breezed through three games, allowing a total of 23 points.
In the State finals it was again the defense that would carry the day for Clayton Valley Charter. The Ugly Eagles scored late in the first half on a one-yard run by late-season hero junior Omari Taylor for a 7-0 lead and held the strong Aquinas offense out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. By then CVCHS added a 35-yard field goal by sophomore Shane Nelson for a 10-0 lead.
Junior quarterback Jake Kern, a key figure with a pair of TD passes in the Regional Bowl Game comeback, got to knell down on the game’s final play in the victory formation as the local team was able to run out the clock to preserve the cherished victory after Aquinas got on the board with a touchdown.
Players doused Murphy with ice water from Gatorade buckets after the final whistle, “the best feeling” the longtime coach has ever had on a football field.
Murphy turns 50 this year and with his daughter a senior in high school he’s made noises about stepping away after coaching CVCHS lacrosse this spring.
After the game he told reporters, “I don’t know. Every year I re-decide.”
2-AA Bowl Results: https://scorebooklive.com/football/tournaments/82
North Coast Section Division 2 Results: http://www.cifncs.org/sports/football/2019_Brackets/FB2BRACKET.pdf
Spartans miss chance late in game
De La Salle racked up its 28th straight North Coast Section title in November to earn the automatic NorCal berth in the Open Division Bowl. Coach Justin Alumbaugh’s team began the season back in August facing then-No. 1 ranked St. Thomas Aquinas of Ft. Lauderdale, FL and lost a mistake-prone game they could have won.
In their season finale they were back on the field against the No. 1 ranked team, this time Bosco, which had twice previously this decade defeated the Spartans in State finals.
Alumbaugh told his team they just had to be “the best version of themselves” in the Bowl Game to give Bosco a battle. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter the team was on the Bosco two-yard line looking to again pull within one score when a missed exchange between quarterback Dorian Hale and runningback Shamar Garrett—the team’s offensive standouts all season—resulted in a fumble and 96-yard return for a Bosco TD to seal the win.
The Spartans stayed within reach of Bosco in spite of the spectacular game by 6-5 Clemson-bound quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and his bevy of future college receivers. He had 398 passing yards and was Bosco’s leading rusher as well.
Before the botched exchange with 3:23 left Garrett had run for three touchdowns and seemed primed for No. 4. It was the Spartans only turnover of the game. Hale passed and ran for over 250 combined yards.
North Coast Section Division 1 Results: http://www.cifncs.org/sports/