Saddleback Valley Christian's Dalton Lohman runs the ball Saturday against St. Bernard's Isaac Drake in the CIF Division V-A state final.

SVC comes up just short in quest for state title


LAGUNA HILLSBrendan Chambers’ postgame address was noticeably longer Saturday night than it had been at any point this season.

Saddleback Valley Christian’s first-year head coach threw around the word “historic” and used phrases like “setting a new standard” as a frustrated bunch of players kneeled before him moments after suffering their first loss of the season.

There was plenty to reflect on, but as Chambers and his coaching staff made clear, there was even more to be prideful of.

The Warriors never quite found a rhythm against St. Bernard’s of Eureka in the CIF State Division V-A championship, falling to the Crusaders, 28-21, under a constant downpour at Laguna Hills High.

After capturing the program’s first CIF-Southern Section title and Regional crown in the preceding weeks, SVC (15-1) came up just shy of becoming the county’s second state champion in as many days.

“We told them, ‘You guys made history. This senior class made history,’” Chambers said. “They left a mark that this school is going to remember forever. We’re always going to stand on their shoulders. One game does not define this season.

“Way back when I took over in March, I told them it was going to be a process and that the journey was going to be better than the destination – that this point would come – so to make as many memories as you can. And they definitely did that.”

Despite averaging upwards of 43 points a game this season, SVC had its hands full with both the St. Bernard’s defense and the elements.

Tied, 7-7, early in the second quarter, Warriors running back David Molina fumbled deep in his team’s territory, setting up Isaac Drake’s 11-yard scoop and score that gave the Crusaders (14-1) a lead it would never relinquish.

“Playing last week in the rain at Humboldt State really prepared us, and you can tell we were playing a team tonight that probably hadn’t had a rain game in years,” St. Bernard’s coach Matt Tomlin said. “They abandoned some of the stuff that we’ve seen them do all year. They went to the I-formation and just ran the ball straight ahead at us, and I don’t think they were comfortable with a wet football at all.”

The Warriors lost a pair of fumbles Saturday night – which led to 14 Crusader points – and they did not complete a pass until the 7:15 mark in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Cade Henjum completed 7 of 17 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, hampered by a leg injury that’s bothered him much of the postseason.

His counterpart, St. Bernard’s quarterback Jack Rice, ran the ball 41 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. His 2-yard touchdown score late in the third quarter extended the Crusaders’ lead to 28-14 headed into the fourth.

St. Bernard’s offense lived on SVC’s side of the field. The Crusaders ran 62 of their 71 plays in Warriors territory, forcing Henjum to work with a lengthy, slick field throughout the evening.

No SVC receiver had more than two catches in the finale. Marc Audet’s second catch was a 4-yard touchdown grab coming with four seconds left on the clock.

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