Opponents know that any hope of beating San Bernardino Cajon depends on containing its dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels.
That is easier said than done but Chatsworth Sierra Canyon found a way with timely passing and a potent rushing attack in Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship game at San Bernardino Valley College.
Daniels was stopped three yards short of the end zone on fourth and goal from the eight-yard line on a halfback option pass from Devin Murray with 4:27 left and the Cowboys (12-2) never got the ball back.
Sierra Canyon clinched the victory when JJ Hernandez caught a pass in the flat and slipped several tackles for a crucial first down, then EJ Gable broke to the outside and sprinted 45 yards to the Cowboys’ 1 that allowed the Trailblazers to run out the clock.
“After we stopped them in the red zone I knew we were going to win,” Gable said.
Cajon’s blue-chip senior captain was held in check for 24 minutes but completed 19 of 32 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 172 yards and two scores as the host Cowboys were unable to rally from a 17-point deficit.
Gable ran 27 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns, including an 11-yard scoring run that put the Trailblazers (11-3) on top to stay, 34-30, with 8:21 left.
Hunter Williams ran the ball six times for 22 yards and had one reception for seven yards and JD Sumlin had four carries for 29 yards for the Trailblazers, who lost to Newhall Hart 21-7 in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs last season.
Sierra Canyon started 0-2 but has won six straight games … and the season is not over yet.
“I’m always confident… no team will take that away from me,” said Gable, who entered the contest with 1,226 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. “We knew in order to win we had to control the clock and keep the ball away from them. Of all the things I’ve done in football, this is No. 1.”
Utah-bound receiver Darren Jones gave the Cowboys their only lead, 30-27, early in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard reception from Daniels, who passed for 5,139 yards and 62 touchdowns while leading his team to the Southern Section Division 4 title and the CIF State 2-AA bowl game last season.
Quarterback Chayden Peery scored on a two-yard sneak to cap Sierra Canyon’s first drive and threw a 15-yard scoring strike to JJ Hernandez early in the second quarter to cap a 10-play, 60-yard drive that gave the Trailblazers a 14-0 lead. Josh Bryan’s 35-yard field goal made it 17-0 with 4:41 left in the first half.
Daniels began the Cowboys’ comeback with a 23-yard scramble — his 15th rushing touchdown of the year — and threw a two-point conversion pass to Murray with 2:49 left in the second quarter for Cajon’s only points of the first half.
Daniels ran for a 35-yard touchdown to end the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half and tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gibson on the last play of the third quarter to narrow Cajon’s deficit to 27-22. Hernandez caught three passes for 21 yards and Peery completed eight of 17 passes for 73 yards.
JJ Hernandez caught three passes for 21 yards and Peery completed 8 of 17 passes for 73 yards for Sierra Canyon, which beat San Mateo Serra to win the state 2A bowl game in 2016.
“Sierra Canyon is crisp offensively and they don’t make a whole lot of mistakes,” Cajon Coach Nick Rogers said. “We had them in third-and-long a couple of times and they converted on runs. Give them credit, up front their line did a great job.”
Daniels, who has never missed a game in four seasons, is the state all-time leader in both yards passing and touchdowns and entered Friday’s matchup having thrown for 13,732 yards and 168 touchdowns in 52 career starts.