There’s a changing of the guard under way in high school football. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, an eight-man team when it started in 2007, is on the verge of joining the elite at the highest level.
“I think they have as much talent as anyone around out here,” West Hills Chaminade coach Ed Croson said.
The Trailblazers (13-1), winners of the Southern Section Division 2 championship, take on San Diego Open Division champion La Mesa Helix (11-1) on Friday night in a Division 1-AA CIF state championship regional bowl game at Helix.
The Trailblazers have been on a 10-year plan succeeding at every level as they moved up the 11-man ladder, starting in the equivalent of Division 12 in 2009. This season’s team has only three senior starters, an indication their climb will continue in 2020.
“It’s been a great ride,” said coach Jon Ellinghouse, who started the program 12 years ago. “We never had a goal of being Division 1. We wanted to see how it went. As we’ve achieved success, the talent has continued to improve and increase. As that talent has grown, so has our reputation.”
Sierra Canyon has won five section titles and two state championship bowl games. This season’s bowl game is the highest level yet for the Trailblazers. They’ve had breakthrough playoff wins this season against traditional powers such as Santa Margarita from the Trinity League, Chaminade from the Mission League and Rancho Cucamonga from the Baseline League.
“I would say the team we saw in the final is ready,” Croson said of the Trailblazers’ potential Division 1 future.
Westlake Village Oaks Christian made it to the Division 1 semifinals last season before being routed by Bellflower St. John Bosco. Sierra Canyon could be one of the schools trying to break up the St. John Bosco-Santa Ana Mater Dei-Corona Centennial Division 1 domination over the last five years.
First, though, the Trailblazers must show they can compete against the top team in San Diego for the chance to play next Friday at Cerritos College for a Division 1-AA state bowl championship.
Helix is the school that produced Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton. It succeeded Cathedral Catholic as San Diego’s top team this season behind a strong running game.
Sierra Canyon’s strong group of young players include junior quarterback Chayden Peery, who has one interception in 14 games, and junior receiver-cornerback DJ Harvey, who’s averaging 18 yards a catch.
These are heady times for the Trailblazers. The boys’ basketball team has won consecutive state championships and will appear 15 times on ESPN networks. The girls’ basketball team is the defending state champion. The baseball team recently hired City Section legend Tom Meusborn to be an associate coach.
“It’s incredible for Sierra Canyon,” Ellinghouse said. “We’re not in competition. We’re here to support each other.”