Oak Park High came up with the big plays Friday night: a 96-yard touchdown pass, a blocked punt and a blocked field-goal attempt.
But Cerritos Valley Christian came with the big players: for example, an offensive line that outweighed the Eagles by 20 pounds a player.
In the end, might made right as the Crusaders wore down the host Eagles for a 21-17 win in the Southern Section Division IX quarterfinal.
“They made some fluke plays,” said Jake Wiersma, the Crusaders’ 6-foot-5, 250-pound lineman. “We just had to hang in there and keep putting pressure on them.”
The decisive touchdown came on a typical Cerritos Valley Christian drive: The Crusaders (10-2) marched 82 yards in 15 plays, sticking to the ground and using up 7 1/2 minutes. Corey Peters scored from the two-yard line with 5:19 left, capping a night in which he rushed 40 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
“They did what they had to do,” said Oak Park Coach Dick Billingsley, whose team finished the season with a 10-2 record. “They controlled the ball.”
Cerritos Valley Christian remained on offense for what seemed like all of the first half but trailed, 7-0, thanks to a near field-long touchdown pass from Alex Eckert to Jeff Gibbons in the first quarter.
Just before halftime, the Crusaders scored two touchdowns in 35 seconds. The first came after Eckert pitched left to tailback Tarik Smith, who had run right. Valley Christian recovered the fumble and Peters eventually dived into the end zone from four yards.
After the kickoff, Eckert threw an interception. The Crusaders took possession deep in Eagle territory and Vern Carlson passed 24 yards to Jeff Klein for a 14-7 lead.
Gibbons kicked a 35-yard field goal to get the Eagles close, then Jon Liebe intercepted a pass. Smith gave Oak Park the lead by running 14 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
Smith, who rushed for 1,776 yards this season, was bottled up for most of the game. He carried nine times for 52 yards. In all, Oak Park ran only 28 offensive plays to Cerritos Valley Christian’s 61.