Big Valley 21
Redding Christian 20
By Wil Keepers,
The Redding Christian Lions made a valiant effort but saw their 2018 season end as they came up just short, losing 21-20.
The Cardinals got the ball for the opening possession and drove 70 yards for the score, taking a 7-0 lead. They changed some of their passing plays and caught the Lions off guard, as Redding Christian stuffed most run plays, but gave up several 10-20 yard passes on the drive. The Lions had to punt their first possession, but then the defense adjusted and held, and when the Lions got the ball back for their second possession, they drove the field, and Isaiah Van Denend ran 35 yards for the touchdown. After Jonah Osborne’s PAT, the score was tied at 7 as the first quarter ended.
Early in the second quarter, Big Valley drove the field again, effectively mixing passes and runs, and ran in a score just two minutes into the quarter. But pressure caused the Big Valley kicker to come up short, and the score was 13-7 Cardinals. Through the second quarter, both teams had periods where they moved the ball well, and periods when they didn’t as they each exchanged punts and neither team scored again, and halftime came with the Cardinals leading 13-7.
Redding Christian got the ball first in the second half, and they were driving well, until a Van Denend pass bounced up off of the receivers hands, right to the defensive back. Big Valley took the Lions only turnover for the game into the end zone two minutes later, and took what could have been a commanding 21-7 lead after a well designed two point conversion where the kicker, (who is also one of the two quarterbacks) received a direct snap and passed the ball to the end zone. But Redding Christian responded with a drive right down the field, culminating in setting up lineman Wyatt Hughes as an eligible receiver and while everything looks like a power play to the right, sending Hughes out into the left flat, where he caught the ball and raced to the end zone for a 33 yard touchdown. After Jonah Osborne knocked through his second PAT, the score was 21-14.
After a couple of stalled drives and punts, the Cardinals were driving late in the 3rd quarter when Luke Zikan caused and recovered a fumble for the Lions inside the red zone. Redding Christian drove to the Cardinals side of the field, but turned the ball over on downs at the 39. Then, just like the second quarter, came a series of possessions where both teams would move the ball but then stall out. But this time, there wasn’t a whole game left, time was ticking away for the Lions. With 4 minutes to go, they stopped Big Valley just outside of the Red Zone on downs, and got the ball at their own 23. It took them neary 3 minutes, a converted 4th down, and a couple of long plays, but they got the ball in the end zone with 1:17 left in the game. A PAT would have tied the game, and Jonah Osborne had hit both of his earlier extra points, but Coach Piper decided to go for two and the win rather than one point and the tie. He sent in lineman Sam Standifer as a halfback, and Clark Smith as a tailback, and lined up Van Denend under center. The Cardinals threw everything they had at the line, and the Lions came up half a yard short. And that was how the season ended for the 7-5 Lions, coming up less than half a yard short of beating the Big Valley Cardinals, who take their 33 game winning streak into the championship game against Los Molinos next Friday. Isaiah Van Denend went 6-10 for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and rushed 28 times for 155 yards for the Lions, while Clark Smith passed 1-1 for 11 yards. Clark Smith had 1 reception for 41 yards, Carson Piper had 2 for 34 yards, and Josiah Van Denend had 3 for 28 yards, while Wyatt Hughes caught the 33-yard touchdown pass. Sam Standifer led the way defensively with 13 tackles, and Ryne Luaces added 11 while Clark Smith had 10. Luke Zikan had 7 tackles and the huge fumble he caused and its recovery.
The Lions football team ended the season with a 7-5 record, a “down year” by their standards, but the improvement as the season went on made it feel far different for the Lions and their fans. With only three graduating seniors, though their contributions were large, the future is bright for these young Lions after all the improvement they showed and toughness they gained these last few weeks.