After a fabulously fruitful season in which the Broncos had won 11 of 12 — their only loss by a whisker (two points) — there were justifiably high expectations as Coast Union traveled three-plus hours south to Canoga Park to take on the Faith Baptist Contenders for the CIF Southern Section eight-man football championship game Saturday, Nov. 30.
However, nobody could have predicted the misfortune that awaited the players and the bus load of rooters who arrived. Final score: Contenders 74, Broncos 22.
Indeed, after the first quarter — in which the Contenders rang up 30 points to none for the Broncos — it was beginning to look more like the pretenders vs. the Contenders. And at halftime, with the score 56-8, the young men from Cambria were buried, and they knew it. They were outplayed in virtually every aspect of the game.
On the other hand, everything 6-foot, 3-inch Contender quarterback Jonathan Rasmussen did sizzled with success. His receivers were nearly always open; his running back, Gary Tyler, was nearly unstoppable, zigzagging through and around would-be Bronco tacklers like a sharpened machete through soft butter.
That may seem to be too harsh an assessment. But for a reporter who has called every play in every game on KTEA-FM this season, and seen the toughness, aggressiveness, resilience — the great blocking and consistently explosive offense the Broncos displayed, it was frankly shocking to witness such a colossal collapse at such a pivotal moment in the season.
Regarding the ability of quarterback Rasmussen to pass at will, and hit his receivers with pinpoint accuracy, Head Coach Charlie Casale said “we were not able to get a pass rush” on him and hence he had “too much time to throw.” Plus, his receivers “made some great catches,” the coach explained, and that was something of an understatement because some of the extraordinarily uncanny, diving catches would qualify for ESPN’s highlight videos on any night.
Casale also noted that the Broncos effective quarterback Angel Avina had hurt his throwing shoulder and “didn’t throw passes the entire week” leading up to the championship game. Still, Avina scored two touchdowns and passed for 142 yards on 14 of 30 tosses at Canoga Park.
Moreover, it was an unusual week of practice due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The team was accustomed to practicing after school every day at 3:30 p.m. but of necessity had to change their routine. They practiced at 11 a.m. during vacation week, with no practice on Thanksgiving. Casale is not making excuses, and isn’t sure this had a negative impact on the team, “but it was different,” he added.
Recap: Sensational season
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the storm clouds temporarily blocking the sunlight of positivity — vis-à-vis the crushing championship game defeat — no one can take away the accomplishments of the 11-2 season this team put together.
It all started on Aug. 30 at Kings Christian in the San Fernando Valley, a game in which the Broncos rallied for 14 points in the fourth quarter to prevail 57-47. Coast rushed for 391 yards in that game and Emmany Godinez caught three touchdown passes.
The Broncos then took on a tough Orcutt Academy team on Sept. 13 and won 50-30, thanks to 363 rushing yards (201 by Lane Sutherland) and Avina’s accuracy (10 of 13 for 117 yards).
Next, on Sept. 20, Coast Union hammered Fresno Christian, 49-14.
On Sept. 27, the Broncos lost a heart-breaker to Laguna Blanca (50-48), even though Sutherland racked up 243 yards rushing and Quinten Raethke snagged three touchdown passes.
Avina had a huge impact on Oct. 5 against Dunn School in the Santa Ynez Valley. He passed for 172 yards on 18 completions and ran for 100 yards on 14 carries (scoring a pair of touchdowns), but in the waning moments of the game, when Dunn was driving and close to the winning score, the 5-foot, 9-inch senior leaped high to intercept a pass and save the game.
Oct. 11 was a walk through the park for the Broncos as they mauled under-manned Riverdale Christian, 55-0.
The win against Thacher (a team that beat the Broncos in 2012) on Oct. 18 was a big confidence-builder for Coast Union. They won 42-14 thanks in part to great defense (Danny Rodriguez had seven tackles) and Raethke’s 150 yards and two touchdown catches — four touchdown tosses coming from Avina.
Angel also threw for four touchdowns against a tough Cate team on Oct. 26 — a squad that had manhandled Coast the year before — and he rushed for 140 yards.
On Nov. 2, Coast walked all over Villanova Prep in Ojai, 62-20 (Rodriguez had seven tackles again).
The first playoff win against Concordia on Nov. 8 was also a blowout, 72-14; Binh Trieu scored a pair of touchdowns and ran for 101 yards in that tilt.
The second playoff game gave Coast a chance to balance their books against Laguna Blanca, and they did just that, roughing up the Santa Barbara team 47-20 on Nov. 15. Avina chewed up an impressive 230 yards rushing and passed for two touchdowns.
Playoff game number three was played in dreary, drenching rain in the Mojave Desert, but Coast corralled the Lucerne Valley Mustangs 48-22 on Nov. 22. In that game, a timely fumble recovery by senior Grant Magnuson, interception returns for scores by Rodriguez and Godinez, solid rushing by Avina and Trieu, and terrific blocking by the Broncos’ front four sealed the deal and put the Broncos into the championship game.
“It is tough to fight your way to the final game,” Casale explained. “Sometimes when you shoot for the stars you will hit the moon,” he added, “which is not all bad.”
Touché, Coach Casale.
Email John FitzRandolph at firstname.lastname@example.org.