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Capo Valley rides second-half surge to first final since 1990
RIVERSIDE – It was a comeback worthy of the Capistrano Valley football record book.
Behind a stifling defense and determined quarterback Kevin Brown, the Cougars rallied from a 14-point deficit at halftime Friday to stun host M.L. King of Riverside, 20-14, in the CIF-SS Division 5 semifinals and reach their first section final since 1990.
The second-seeded Cougars (12-1) trailed, 14-0, at intermission but took the lead for good on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Brown to wide receiver Riley Kasper on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Sea View League champions sealed the victory on a fumble recovery by strong safety Ryan Schurmer with two seconds left at the Capo Valley 41. King completed a long pass on the play, but cornerback Tommy Dickman forced the fumble.
The teams scuffled near the Capistrano Valley sideline after the scramble for the ball, prompting the referees to stop the game with two seconds left.
The Cougars will play top-seeded Calabasas, a 58-21 winner against Roosevelt, in a final next Saturday that Cougars coach Ernie Bucher hopes to play at home.
“We haven’t done this since 1990 … it’s insane,” Brown said. “It was a tough game but at the end of the day, we (knew) we’re a better team. Our defense kept us in it the entire time.”
King intercepted Brown three times in the first half, including touchdown returns of 84 and 85 yards by cornerback Jaylen Moore in the second quarter.
The Wolves also sacked Brown four times in the first half and hit the senior numerous other times.
But Brown turned the tide in the second half, guiding Capistrano Valley to scores on its first four possessions. With a quicker release, he finished the second half 16 of 21 for 200 of his 282 yards.
The Cougars opened the third by driving from their 29 for a 25-yard field by Clay Eggeman, who made it 14-3 with 6:36 left in the quarter.
After the Cougars’ defense forced a punt deep in the Wolves’ territory, Brown capitalized with a 38-yard TD pass to Kasper with 2:56 left in the third, cutting the deficit to 14-10.
Capistrano Valley’s defense held again but the Wolves’ punt pinned the Cougars at their 3 with 1:59 left in the third. But Brown drove Capistrano Valley for a 38-yard TD pass to Kasper on the second play of the fourth for a 17-14 lead.
A sack by Jake Clark halted the next King drive and after a 32-yard field goal by Eggeman with 7:13 left in the fourth, cornerback Rafael Ramos made interception that tighten the screws on King with 4:20 left. Defensive end Nolan Reeve applied the pressure on the play.
"We had a great comeback against Trabuco earlier in the season, so we talked about that at halftime," Bucher said. "We've done this. We've already been to this spot. The kids came out and responded and Kevin had a great second half."
Capistrano Valley's defense kept King off the scoreboard despite playing without standout linebacker Brock Ricci (knee).
"Our defense has played like that all year," Bucher said. "They bent tonight but didn't break. They're physical. They're a relentless bunch."
King hurt itself with 22 penalties for over 200 yards but gave credit to the Cougars.
"Those kids battled," King coach Kevin Corridan said. "They made some great halftime adjustments and were able to breakdown some of the pressure we were able to get on them in the first half. ... In the second half, (Brown) just got the ball out that much faster."
As for the game ending a few seconds early, Corridan said, "That was the right call. It got a little out of hand there at the end. For the sportsmanship, it's just better to call it. ... We talked to the coaches and gave them our respect."
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