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Grace Brethren wins overtime thriller over Villa Park

Grace Brethren wins overtime thriller over Villa Park
Running back Lontrelle Diggs takes a handoff as Grace Brethren prepares to play Villa Park on Friday night. (Devin Ugland / For The Times)

Grace Brethren football coach Josh Henderson needed his quarterback to make plays with the Lancers’ backs against the wall Friday in a CIF Southern Section Division 4 semifinal against Villa Park.

With his team trailing by two touchdowns and 11:24 to play, Mikey Zele — a sophomore who had only attempted three passes with none completed in the game — suddenly got hot.

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He zipped his first completion for 39 yards to Nate Bennett, setting up an easy one-yard touchdown run for himself, cutting Grace Brethren’s deficit to 28-21.

Zele’s second completion was a 53-yard touchdown pass to Bennett, tying the game with 2:08 remaining and sending the game into overtime.

With Grace Brethren trailing 31-28 in overtime after a Villa Park field goal, and the Lancers facing a third-and-15 situation from the 20-yard line, Zele faked a handoff and scampered 18 yards to the two-yard line.

Zele’s run set up a game-winning, two-yard touchdown run by Grace Brethren’s workhorse back, Lontrelle Diggs, giving the Lancers a thrilling 34-31 win over the Spartans, to advance to the Division 4 championship where they will face top-seeded Corona del Mar.

“We’re a ground-and-pound team,” Zele said. “But whenever I get my chance I like to show I can throw the ball.”

Coach Henderson said he always has confidence in his quarterback to make plays with his arm or his legs.

“Mikey, with the group we have, is asked to do his part,” Henderson said. “But I have no doubt, as he’s proven time and again, when called upon, he will perform. I’ve known him since he was a boy and he always makes plays.”

The Lancers (11-2) rushed for 291 yards as a team compared to just 124 through the air.

Diggs, a senior, rushed for a game-high 133 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns, while junior Josh Henderson, the coach’s son, added 102 yards and a score.

Villa Park (12-1) got out to a fast start in the first half, forcing and recovering three fumbles, while scoring on its first three drives of the game for a 21-0 lead.

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