Avalon rode late momentum to CIF championship game
It was definitely a rollercoaster season for the Avalon High football team this year, but the Lancers were able to finish the campaign with a wild push to the CIF-SS Eight-Man Division II championship before falling just short.
Still, to earn a championship Runner-Up plaque after starting the season and 1-3 and entering the playoffs with just a 2-5 record, Head Coach Nick Morones said his young team looked like they had found their form in the final weeks of the season.
“They just know the formula and know what it takes to make it,” Morones said of the team.
Morones took over the team last year and the Lancers went 7-3 and got to the semifinals before getting knocked out of the playoffs. With several graduates gone, this year’s team was thinner on upperclassmen, but the few starters they had began to take more leadership down the stretch this year. Junior Darren Hall moved into the middle linebacker spot and quarterbacked the defense. And senior Francisco Arrelano began to impose his will at the running back spot.
Ironically, one of their best games was a loss, a 39-26 loss to Grace Brethren in their final regular season game. Grace had been one of the top-ranked teams in the 8-man poll and finished the season ranked No. 6. Despite the loss, the Lancers felt they had played one of their best games of the season.
Morones said the team had showed some strong individual play, but the Grace Brethren game was the best team game they had played. They had eliminated a lot of mistakes, sharpened up blocking schemes and vastly improved their communication. And Arrelano took advantage of the improved blocking to take over at running back.
“He would not be denied,” Morones said.
Avalon had little trouble with Laguna Blanca in their opening playoff game, winning the first-round game, 48-8. Avalon had entered the playoffs as the No. 17 ranked team and were facing No. 10 Desert Chapel in the second round. They fell behind early and had some calls go against them that Morones call “tough,” but in the second half, he said the defense stiffened and Arrelano took over.
“That was probably the best game we played all season,” Morones said.
The Lancers continued the momentum in the semifinals with a 48-0 thrashing of Coast Union, a team that was Ranked 12th in final poll. The Lancers would face No. 14 Hesperia Christian, a team that went 11-2 on the season, in the championship.
Unfortunately for the Lancers, that is where the momentum would fade. The Lancers lost a hard-fought title game, 48-22. But for Morones it signals potential for a program that was predominantly underclassmen in starting roles as they head into the offseason. And it gives the program a Runner-Up plaque to hang alongside the 2015 Championship plaque. All in a rollercoaster season that almost faded into obscurity.
“I’m just glad that we were able to turn it around,” Morones said.