Crusaders earn win and trip to CIF final

Jeff Tully

With the Village Christian football team trailing Ontario Christian

by six points at halftime of their CIF Southern Section Division XII

semifinal game, the Crusaders headed into the locker room to face


Coach Marty Martin.

However, instead of screaming and berating his squad, Martin took

another approach, motivating his team with knowledge.

The Village Christian pupils responded with an A-plus effort in


the second half, as their potent running game paid dividends in a

49-29 victory at Granada Hills Kennedy High.

“Some of the parents said ‘I would have loved to be a fly on the

wall in the locker room during halftime. I bet you really gave it to

them,’ ” Martin said. “But I didn’t go in there and yell and scream

at them.

“What we did in the locker room was we changed some things around

and made some adjustments. To the kids’ credit, they really



Behind the play of senior running back Jason Christensen, who

rushed for 269 yards in 21 carries and five touchdowns, the Crusaders

(11-2) were able to outscore the Knights, 35-9, in the second half.

“We tried to do some passing in the first half, and we were fairly

successful,” said Martin, whose team includes 11 Burbank residents.

“But in the second half, we really stepped up our running game and

let Jason do his thing. The runs of four and five yards he was


getting in the first half became runs of seven and eight yards in the

second half.

“I think we really wore them down in the second half.”

The win avenges a loss in last year’s playoff quarterfinal, when

the Crusaders lost to the Knights (10-3), 34-7.

Village Christian -- the Alpha League champion -- will take on

North Hills L.A. Baptist at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Division XII

championship at Kennedy High.

The teams met on Nov. 14 in a league game and the Crusaders rolled

to an easy 54-14 win against the rival Knights (10-3).

“We are excited about being in the championship game,” Martin

said. “And we intend to take full advantage of the opportunity.”

The Crusaders also received a fine performance from senior

quarterback Jake Hagedorn, who completed six of 12 passes for 130

yards and a touchdown -- a 16-yard scoring strike to Andrew Bethany.

Ontario Christian, the defending division champion, was paced by

running back Rich Owens, who ran for 208 yards and pestered the

Village Christian defense in the first half.

The Crusaders will have a chance to win the school’s first CIF

championship in football in the 54-year history of the program.

It would also be just the school’s third overall title, as the

Crusader boys’ volleyball and softball teams brought home

championships in May.