Make no mistake about it — Chatsworth Sierra Canyon’s football program is on its way to Division 1 status.
The Southern Section Division 3 champions, showing they have the linemen and physicality up front, outmuscled and outplayed Division 2 champion Upland 7-3 on Saturday night to win the CIF state Division 1-A Southern California Regional bowl game in a defensive-minded game that was only lacking blizzard conditions.
Sierra Canyon was playing eight-man football in 2008. It won a Division IV bowl championship in 2011 and another bowl game in 2016. But now the Trailblazers (12-3) are proving they belong with the big boys, particularly on defense.
With lineman Ben Lee being disruptive in the middle, JJ Hernandez making tackles at cornerback and JD Hernandez filling holes at linebacker, Upland (12-3) didn’t come close to reaching the end zone. Add to that, Chayce Edwards-Morgan came through with an interception to halt one of the few Upland drives in the second half.
“The story of the football game is our defense,” coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “They shut them down.”
Offensive lineman Josh Carlin ran off like a running back celebrating as time ran out with the Trailblazers on Upland’s one-yard line. He took one for the team. He got into a scuffle with Upland’s standout linebacker, Justin Flowe, with 5:45 left. Flowe was ejected.
“I put him on his butt and he punched me,” Carlin said. “I went back to my corner.”
Sierra Canyon has used four running backs all season, and the Trailblazers went to sophomore JD Sumlin to deliver some key gains. He had 88 yards rushing.
All the scoring happened in the first half. Upland got a 36-yard field goal from Cameron Walker at the outset of the second quarter for a 3-0 lead.
The first half for the Sierra Canyon offense was all about knowing where Flowe was on the field and looking for ways to either avoid him or block him.
Flowe forced quarterback Chayden Peery into a turnover in the first quarter, getting in the backfield and putting his arms around Peery as he released the ball. It was intercepted by Joshua Garcia and returned to the Sierra Canyon 10. Fortunately for the Trailblazers, on the next play, they recovered a fumble.
Sierra Canyon found a way to move the ball on its only scoring drive — going quick count.
The Trailblazers drove from their own 27 to the Upland 11. On third down, Peery got the ball to running back Brendon Gamble on a shovel pass up the middle and he scored for a 7-3 lead with 8:27 left in the second quarter.
Upland’s offense badly missed two of its best players _ running back Cameron Davis and receiver Taj Davis, a pair of Washington recruits who were injured.
Sierra Canyon advances to play at Cerritos College on Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. for the 1-A state title against an opponent to be named on Sunday.
In 3-A, Fontana Kaiser received seven touchdowns from running back Christian Hunter in a 48-40 win over Rialto Eisenhower.
In 6-A, Cael Patterson scored from nine yards out and again on two-point PAT as Escondido Orange Glen scored with 2:05 to play and edged Los Angeles Locke 22-14.