CHATSWORTH — Customized hard hats were handed out to all the players on Sierra Canyon’s defense on Friday, a symbol of the hard work that the Trailblazers were planning to put into that night’s game.
They delivered on that promise, and the offense did, too, in a 37-20 win over Santa Margarita in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Friday night. It was Sierra Canyon’s first Division 1 win in program history.
“It’s a big thing for our program coming from such small beginnings,” sophomore safety Madden Riordan said. “I’m just excited for the next one.”
Sierra Canyon (10-0) will next play Trinity League runner-up Mater Dei in the Division 1 semifinals on Friday, Nov. 17.
Sierra Canyon held Santa Margarita (5-5) scoreless in the first quarter while scoring 21 points for themselves. The Trailblazers scored on their first drive when Wyatt Becker hit Kwazi Gilmer with a 10-yard pass, then Terrell Cooks ran the ball 28 yards with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Less than five minutes later, Becker ran towards the right sideline before launching a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jae’on Young to put the Trailblazers up 14-0.
“I knew that it was going to be wide open right when the corner and safety came down,” Young said.
Young played both ways for the Trailblazers in the secondary and at receiver. Fellow receiver Ajani Wrightster as well as running back Jaxsen Stokes did not dress for the game and are currently day-to-day due to injury.
Becker and Gilmer connected once more in the opening frame, this time for an eight-yard gain to place the ball at the 3-yard line and Dane Dunn finished the job on a short touchdown run.
Santa Margarita had the ball to start the second quarter and gained a first down on a roughing the passer call. The Eagles seized the opportunity and scored four plays later when John Gazzaniga threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Brody.
Two interceptions were thrown in the minutes leading up to halftime. Noah Suhlick picked off Becker and ran the ball to the 29-yard line with over a minute until the break. Santa Margarita made it to the 8-yard line before USC commit Madden Riordan intercepted James Johnson near the end zone.
“We’ve been doing it all year,” Riordan said. “A lot of people have not scored on us. That’s really been our big thing since last year, goal line stops. We’ve got a lot of them. We practice that a lot at practice and we got a couple big ones today.”
Santa Margarita recovered its own punt at the start of the third quarter, then Trent Mosley ran for an eight-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 21-14. Mosley had an interception when Sierra Canyon got the ball back and put the Eagles at the 40-yard line.
They nearly scored from 12 yards out, but the Trailblazers broke up the pass for another fourth-down stop.
The Trailblazers opened the fourth quarter with a four-yard touchdown run by Terrell Cooks, then added a field goal by Ashton Zamani with 3:22 left in the game for a 30-14 advantage.
Marquis Gallegos pulled down an interception to get Sierra Canyon the ball with roughly three minutes left to play, then Dunn ran the ball in from nine yards out. Santa Margarita added one last touchdown with 36 left in the game on a John Gazzaniga quarterback keeper.
“We came out in the first quarter humming on offense and did some great things,” coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “We lost the momentum for a little while there but we did what it took to win the game.”
The hard hats distributed to the defense continued a tradition of gift-giving after each playoff win. A new gift will come next week, with the hopes it’ll unite the team ahead of a tough Mater Dei team.
“We all brought them to the film room today,” Riordan said. “I feel like it just brings us together before the game.”