SIMI VALLEY — The moment the clock hit triple zeros, the sideline cleared out as the Crescenta Valley High football team stormed the field at Bob Jacob Memorial Stadium at Simi Valley High.
It had been five years since the Falcons lifted a CIF Southern Section championship plaque, and on a rainy Friday evening, Crescenta Valley achieved its most important goal.
Top-seeded Crescenta Valley, which won the Pacific League title, capped an unbeaten playoff run with a 19-16 victory over ninth-seed Simi Valley in the CIF Southern Section Division X championship game to secure its third title in program history.
“You can have a special team when ‘we’ is bigger than ‘me,’” Crescenta Valley first-year coach Hudson Gossard said. “These guys played for each other in every single way, and that’s when you have a special team — when guys care more about the team than themselves. We had that this year and it was amazing.”
The Falcons (14-0) secured their first title since 2014, when it capped an unbeaten season with the CIF Southeast Division crown.
Crescenta Valley started the playoffs with a first-round win over Peninsula, 20-11, followed by a 45-20 quarterfinal victory against Eisenhower and a 28-10 semifinal triumph over Katella.
In his first start back, Falcons quarterback Chase Center completed 13 of 21 passes for 121 yards and ran the ball 12 times for 52 yards and a touchdown.
“Rain did nothing to me,” said Center, who sustained a knee injury in a Pacific League game against Muir on Oct. 25. “My first touch ever was when I was 5 years old in the rain and hail. It wasn’t bad at all and my team gave me confidence to go in there.”
Falcons running back Sebastian DeLeon had seven carries for 100 yards, with two big runs of 36 and 41 yards to help the Falcons to the section title.
“We were able to fix the blocks and I hit the hole when it was there,” DeLeon said. “We got our linemen ready to go at halftime. We knew we were the better team, so we just had to come out and execute.”
Running backs Maximus Grant and James Cho each scored a rushing touchdown for Crescenta Valley.
A holding call pegged Simi Valley (10-4; Canyon League runner-up) back to the Crescenta Valley 25-yard line in the first quarter. After two incomplete passes, the Pioneers settled on a 39-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead at 6:45 in the opening quarter for the only score of the frame.
On their next possession, the Falcons converted two fourth-down attempts to punch in a three-yard run from Cho for a 6-3 lead at 9:22 in the second after the mixed extra point as the rain started to pick up.
A punt attempt by the Falcons was blocked and scooped up by Simi Valley safety Jonah Burton, who returned the ball for a 50-yard touchdown for a Pioneers 10-6 lead with 5:13 left in the half.
Deep in Pioneers territory, the Falcons had a chance to score, but turned the ball over on downs with 17.9 in the half, as the Falcons went into the break down by four.
A 16-yard catch from Falcons receiver Colby Rees converted a fourth-down play and kept the Falcons’ opening drive of the second half alive. Grant scored on a five-yard run four plays later to give Crescenta Valley a 13-10 lead at 7:09 in the third.
After a quick three-and-out from the Pioneers, DeLeon moved Crescenta Valley down into scoring position with a 36-yard run. With 55.5 left in the third, Center snuck in a two-yard touchdown to lift the Falcons to a 19-10 lead after another missed PAT conversion.
“After the half, we watched some film and saw their weakness,” Center said. “We kept pounding that weakness every time, which was their defensive line. It wasn’t as strong as what we’ve faced, so we just kept pounding it and pounding it.”
With 4:19 remaining, the Falcons turned the ball over on downs and Simi Valley running back Ranell White made them pay with a 68-yard scoring run to cut the Crescenta Valley lead to 19-16.
“That’s what you want a championship game to be,” Gossard said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a high-scoring game, but it had the drama, it had the weather and we went in at halftime and we knew we couldn’t have played a worst first half.
“We came out and made some gutsy, gutsy plays in that first drive to get ahead. Defensively, other than that late [score] to make it interesting, we shut them down.”
As the team filed up for a post-game photo, there was just one word they shouted : Undefeated.