Predictions of doom swirled around the Santana Sultans when they were preparing to face perennial power Valley Center in Monday’s San Diego Section at Qualcomm Stadium.
Can one player mean so much to a team? When it is , Santana’s Mr. Do-It-All senior, it can.
Yet, with Lozoya sidelined with a lacerated kidney, the Sultans, who were also missing three other starters, put up a hearty fight before falling to the heavily favored Jaguars 20-14.
It was the third section championship in five years for Valley Center, which has been in the title game five straight times and closed the season with 12 straight victories. Santana concluded its campaign with an 11-2 mark, tying the 1999 Sultans for most wins in a season.
Sultans coach Dave Gross wasn’t surprised by the effort put forth by his team, which was making its first-ever appearance in a section final.
“This was typical of the kind of effort our team has given every week,” said Gross, who is expected to announce his retirement later this month. “They play with a lot of heart.”
After surrendering a 52-yard scoring pass to the Jaguars on their first snap of the game, Santana created a break of its own. Senior linebacker Wesley Green blocked a Valley Center punt and junior end James Parr recovered at the Jaguars 3-yard line with five minutes left in the opening period. Tyler Weiss eventually scored on a 3-yard burst to tie the game.
Green finished with a team-best 10½ tackles. Junior linebacker Kevin Brady also made 10 stops.
Southpaw quarterback Kyle Gasner clicked on 13 of 28 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown, a 10-yard scoring strike to Shawn Padberg in the fourth quarter. That cut the Jaguars’ advantage to 20-14 with 1:22 remaining.
“We definitely missed Landon, but other guys stepped up big-time for us,” Gasner said.
Santana appeared to successfully execute an onside kick after pulling within six, but the officials ruled otherwise and Valley Center ran out the clock.
"When you play with as much heart as our kids do you know the game is never out of reach,” Gross said.
Garrett Fiehler paced the Jaguars with 205 yards on 41 carries. Valley Center kept the Santana offense in check with four interceptions.
San Diego CIF Division IV Championship
Valley Center 20, Santana 14
Santana 7 0 0 7 — 14
Valley Center 7 10 0 3 — 20
VC–McInerny 52 pass from Kleiman (McInerny kick)
S –Weiss 3 run (Cornish kick)
VC-FG McInerny 22
VC-Fiehler 25 run (McInerny kick)
VC-FG McInerny 30
S –Padberg 10 pass from Gasner (Cornish kick)
Special to Santee Patch from eastcountysports.com