It was last February when Ryan Stevens was a freshman at West Hills Chaminade, and highly touted Brevin White transferred in from Mission Hills Alemany. Stevens was supposed to be the odd man out in the quarterback competition. He could have pulled a LeBron James and said, “I’m going to take my talents . . .”
Instead, he stayed and decided to compete for the starting job.
“My parents taught me to always fight even when I’m facing adversity,” Stevens said.
On Friday night in a Southern Section Division 1 playoff opener against Long Beach Poly, it was the left-handed Stevens starting for the third consecutive game and guiding the Eagles (8-3) to a 50-14 victory at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
He completed 16 of 21 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown. Except for giving up an interception to Desmond Talley that was returned for a touchdown, Stevens was masterful in running the Eagles’ no-huddle offense.
“He’s a smart guy and understands the offense,” Coach Ed Croson said. “He can go fast.”
It also helps to have a running back with the powerful running skills of junior T.J. Pledger. He scored five touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards in 26 carries.
“T.J. in the backfield is insane,” Stevens said. “He runs over anybody.”
And the offensive line, which has no seniors, was magnificent.
“This game was about the offensive line,” Stevens said. “They held their own. The line was incredible.”
When is the last time a Chaminade offensive line was able to outmuscle a Poly defensive line near the goal line? The Eagles accomplished that feat repeatedly.
What eventually won the opportunity to start for Stevens was his knowledge of Chaminade’s spread offense. You have to read coverages fast and know where to place the ball. His ability to get the offense into a rhythm and run off plays quickly helped neutralize Poly’s size and experience advantage.
Meanwhile, Poly (7-4) struggled on offense. Quarterback Nolan McDonald was intercepted three times and had minus-five yards passing until the fourth quarter. He finished with 55 yards. Chaminade defensive back Jahlil Pinkett had an interception and defensive back Steve McIntosh had a sack.
This game might have been a sneak peek of what Chaminade could be like in 2017. The Eagles are loaded with outstanding sophomores and juniors. And White played in the third quarter and remains an important insurance policy for the Eagles.
“Unbelievable,” Croson said of inflicting a running clock on 19-time Southern Section champion Poly. “We didn’t expect this. A lot of kids stepped up and made plays.”
Next up is No. 2-seeded Corona Centennial at home in the quarterfinals. Centennial defeated Chaminade, 70-29, last season.
Asked how many points his team might need to score against the Huskies, Croson said, “More than 50.”