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Leonard stars as Brethren Christian grabs share of Academy title
HUNTINGTON BEACH – - When the clock had expired and the handshakes had been completed, Brethren Christian coach Pat McInally finally got to share the secret that had been tormenting him for the last 24 hours.
Following a victory Thursday night, the Warriors’ huddle erupted when their coach announced that Brethren Christian had won the toss as the Academy League’s No. 1 seed.
Jordan Leonard rushed for 341 yards and six touchdowns to make that news relevant. Brethren Christian defeated Crean Lutheran, 51-36, at Ocean View High.
“It’s very exciting because we did win the coin flip and we’re going in as the No. 1,” McInally said immediately following the game. “I couldn’t tell the team until now.”
The Warriors (9-1, 2-1) earned a share of the Academy League title, which was split three ways with Crean Lutheran (7-3, 2-1) and St. Margaret’s (7-2, 2-1). It is the first Academy League title since 2002 for Brethren Christian and the first for Crean Lutheran.
Crean Lutheran gained the league’s second automatic playoff berth. The Tartans get the third seed following the coin flips, but they should be in good position for an at-large bid.
The Saints traded blows with Leonard in the opening quarter. Nick Ellwein pounced on an early lateral for a 24-yard fumble return, and Daniel Albright pulled in a 33-yard touchdown on a beautiful deep pass from Gavin Folsom.
Leonard’s fourth score, combined with Nathan Sagastume’s 70-yard punt return touchdown, gave the Warriors a 37-14 halftime edge.
Crean Lutheran kept the ball on the ground in its comeback attempt. Tanner Atkinson had two rushing touchdowns, the second cutting Brethren Christian’s lead to 44-36 with 3:37 left.
But Leonard kept his legs churning and sealed the game with his sixth score.
“I want to say thank you to my line,” Leonard said. “Without them, I couldn’t do nothing. I want to thank God for the opportunity, and just great coaching all-around.”