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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 2:59 pm | Fair 71º

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Laguna Blanca Comes Out on Top of Wild 8-Man Playoff Semifinal

Owls head to CIF-SS Division 2 Final for first time in school history

Defensive back Merrick Hahn intercepts a pass on the goal line late in the fourth quarter of Laguna Blanca’s 42-36 playoff victory over Hesperia Christian. Click to view larger
Defensive back Merrick Hahn intercepts a pass on the goal line late in the fourth quarter of Laguna Blanca’s 42-36 playoff victory over Hesperia Christian. (Ryan Cullom/ Noozhawk Photo)

In a game that saw 11 combined touchdowns, Laguna Blanca's defense proved most valuable in a 42-36 CIF-SS Division 2 8-man football semifinal victory over top-seeded Hesperia Christian on Saturday in Hope Ranch.

The Owls came up with a huge interception and fourth-down stop late in the game to seal a victory and trip to the championship game for the first time in school history.

"It's about their will to win," explained Laguna Blanca head coach Shane Lopes of his players' drive to reach the CIF final. "They're having so much fun right now and they just want to keep this thing going."

Laguna Blanca's final touchdown was the only score that went unanswered all game. The largest lead of the game was held by the Owls after their first drive.

Laguna Blanca opened up the scoring as quarterback Ty Trosky scrambled 23-yards for a touchdown on a quarterback keeper on fourth and 3. Miles McGovern plowed into the end zone for the two-point conversion to put the Owls up 8-0.

Hesperia responded immediately, as running back Quentin Wilson returned the kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and the Patriots tied the game at 8.

The teams traded two touchdowns each over a period of two minutes in the second quarter. Trosky scored on a 3-yard run and connected with receiver Wells Fowler for the conversion. Patriots quarterback Hunter Dobyns passed to Braydon Hampton for a 25-yard score, but Hesperia failed the two point conversion. Then Trosky scored again on a 23-yard keeper only to be answered by a 15-yard touchdown run by Wilson.

Wells Fowler stiff arms a defender in the Owls playoff victory over Hesperia Christian. Click to view larger
Wells Fowler stiff arms a defender in the Owls playoff victory over Hesperia Christian. (Ryan Cullom/ Noozhawk Photo)

The Owls snatched the lead just before halftime as Trosky hit Anton Homeniuk from 15-yards out to make it a 28-22 game.

Hesperia managed the only score in a relatively quiet third quarter, as Wilson found a seam and rumbled 23 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 28. Hesperia failed on the two-point conversion.

Laguna Blanca opened the fourth quarter with a score as Trosky found running back Alex Furukawa for a 27-yard touchdown on third and 25. The Owls' conversion attempt failed, making the score 34-28. 

After the teams traded interceptions, Hesperia's Wilson broke tackles and cut-back on a sweep to score from 41 yards out and give his team its first lead of the game on the two-point conversion. Wilson ended the game with 109 rushing yards on 18 carries and four touchdowns.

"The times we did contain him he was athletic enough to cut back," Lopes said of Wilson. "He gave us some trouble." 

Alex Furukawa cuts through the line of scrimmage en route to a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Click to view larger
Alex Furukawa cuts through the line of scrimmage en route to a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. (Ryan Cullom/ Noozhawk Photo)

On the ensuing possession, Hesperia intercepted a Trosky pass and returned it to the Owls' 7-yard line. Two-plays later, in need of a stop, Merrick Hahn made a leaping interception of Dobyns and returned the ball to the Owls 20-yard line. Furukawa broke free on the next play for a 60-yard go-ahead score, and Trosky battled his way into the end zone for the conversion and final points of the matchup. Furukawa finished the game with 132 yards on 10 carries.

Trosky left the game briefly due to a leg injury but returned to complete the victory. He finished with 123 yards rushing on 20 carries and 108 passing yards, completing 12-of-16 attempts. He managed five combined touchdowns.

"He's a warrior, just like his teammates," praised Lopes. "That's the essence of the toughness that one requires to be a great quarterback."

The Patriots proved their grit, driving to the Owls' 6-yard line, but McGovern and Aidan O'Donnell hit Dobyns behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-inches to ice the game.

"These are seniors, they knew everything is on the line, that this is our last home game that they'll never play here," Lopes said of McGovern and O'Donnell. "They played like it." 

Laguna Blanca outgained Hesperia 430-239 and held the Patriots to only one fourth-down conversion on four attempts.

Laguna Blanca will travel to play Lancaster Baptist in the title game next weekend. The day and time have yet to be determined.

— Noozhawk sports reporter Christian Eckert can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports and @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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