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FOSTER SNELL, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Saddleback Valley Christian's Felipe Sandoval, center, runs the ball during the Div. V-A Regional game against Kennedy of Delano at Laguna Hills.

Saddleback Valley Christian rides strong finish to state title game

STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA HILLS – They're legit and bound for a state championship game.

David Molina scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:21 left in the fourth and Brian Peek added the extra-point as Saddleback Valley Christian's football team broke a tie and Molina also scored on a 19-yard touchdown run with 2:42 remaining to give the Warriors a 59-45 victory against Kennedy of Delano at Laguna Hills.

Saddleback Valley Christian (15-0) aimed to prove itself in the CIF-State Regional Division V-A Championship game after advancing due to a forfeit before the CIF-SS East Valley Division final.

The Warriors made their point loud and clear.

Saddleback Valley Christian erupted for the first 17 points of the third quarter to take control but Kennedy rallied to tie, 45-45, in the fourth before Molina’s late TD.

SVC will play Saturday against St. Bernard's of Eureka, a 55-0 winner against Fall River of McArthur, at Laguna Hills at 6 p.m.

Saddleback Valley Christian players didn’t want to be defined by their forfeit victory because of an ineligible player by Grace Brethren. Now, they’ll join South County neighbor Mission Viejo in the state finals.

"I knew our team (could) come together and prove that we deserve to be here and go to the state championship," Molina said. "I'm super excited."

Kennedy (10-4) led, 23-21 at halftime but Saddleback Valley Christian took the second-half kickoff and quickly marched for a 5-yard TD by Ryan deViso.

Saddleback Valley Christian lineman Craig Hill then blocked a punt near midfield that 5-foot-1 Issac Moreno turned into another 5-yard touchdown run for a 35-23 lead with 6:44 left in the third quarter.

Peek added a 29-yard field goal late in the third as the Warriors opened a 38-23 lead.

After a Kennedy score, SVC wide receiver Savai’i Cravens, brother of USC linebacker Su’a Cravens, then capped the third quarter with a spectacular 64-yard TD catch. The junior caught a pass at the sideline and broke tackles to cover the final 45 yards as SVC took a 45-30 lead.

Cravens finished with nine catches for 207 yards.

But Kennedy stayed close as the duel went into the fourth quarter.

Kennedy took a 23-21 lead at halftime on a 26-yard field goal by Alejandro Maldonado on the final play. David Zepeda helped set up the score and third lead change of a back-and-forth second quarter with a 54-yard run to the Warriors 9 with 14 seconds left.

Zepeda rushed for more than 200 yards and was part of the challenge the Warriors faced at halftime. SVC running back Dalton Lohman also was injured earlier opening half.

"We definitely responded," SVC coach Brendan Chambers said. "We knew we were going to get a tough fight. We knew they were going to run the ball at us hard. ... I kind of challenged our kids, 'You got to make the most of this opportunity.' "

Saddleback Valley Christian claimed a 21-20 lead with 33 seconds left in the second quarter as Cade Henjum bounced back from an interception to complete 5 for 7 passes on a swift 61-yard drive, capped by a 17-yard touchdown reception in the back corner of the end zone by Molina.

The Warriors led, 14-0, on Henjum’s touchdown passes to Molina (11 yards) and Cravens (14 yards) but Kennedy recovered with three consecutive touchdowns. Kennedy took its first lead, 20-14, on a 3-yard touchdown run by Zepeda with 1:30 left in the second quarter.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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