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The Cardinals surprise islanders

Junior Collin Keoshian drives SCCS to CIF 8-Man Division I semifinals

Posted: November 21, 2008 10:57 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Cardinals running back Collin Keoshian (22) scores a touchdown in the second half against Avalon High School at Canyon High on Friday night. Cardinals running back Collin Keoshian (22) scores a touchdown in the second half against Avalon High School at Canyon High on Friday night.
Cardinals running back Collin Keoshian (22) scores a touchdown in the second half against Avalon High School at Canyon High on Friday night.

As Santa Clarita Christian football coach Garrick Moss thought out loud to himself about how to handle his upcoming week's practice schedule, with his players having the week off from school, junior tailback Collin Keoshian was quick to interrupt with his opinion.

"I want four-hour practices," he begged.

"Film study every single day," he continued.

"I need a championship," he howled for all to hear.

That's the hunger he showed following Friday's CIF 8-Man Division I quarterfinal against Avalon. Unfortunately for Avalon, he showed even more hunger during it.

The junior tailback ran for 242 yards on 26 carries and accounted for four touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 28-21 win Friday night at Canyon High's Harry Welch Stadium.

He ran for three scores, passed for another and almost single-handedly killed the final seven minutes off the clock as the Cardinals kept the ball out of Avalon's hands late.

"That's who he is," Moss said, with a laugh. "What kind of kid asks questions like that? What kid asks for more practice from his coach? Some of his friends on the team were probably even like, ‘C'mon man, what are you saying?' But the guy's on a mission."

Thanks to the junior and a Cardinal defense that played its best game of the year, forcing three turnovers, SCCS will play in its second consecutive semifinal and third in school history. The Cardinals will hit the road to play Windward next Saturday at 1 p.m.

Avalon came into the game as the favorites to spoil that date.

The Lancers entered the quarterfinals with a 9-0 record, beating opposing teams by an average of more than 37 points per game, but it was clear early it wouldn't matter.

Keoshian started the opening possession with a statement, first breaking an 18-yard run on a fourth-and-8 gamble and then scoring from 6 yards out for an early 7-0 lead.

"We've been giving him more rest so we don't wear him out this season, but when it counts, he wants the ball," Moss said. "On the big plays, the ball has to go to Collin."

He was impressive. So was the defense.

After allowing Avalon to match the touchdown with a 35-yard scoring scamper from quarterback Hernan Soto, the Cardinals tightened, forcing three first-half turnovers.

A 1-yard touchdown plunge by Keoshian midway through the second quarter gave the Cardinals a 14-7 advantage, which they took into the halftime break. A 7-yard touchdown pass from Keoshian - who also threw for 62 yards on 4-of-6 passing - to Steven Borden, gave the Cardinals a more comfortable two-touchdown lead with 3:27 to play in the third.

The Cardinals were cruising.

That's when it turned into a shootout.

Soto hooked up with Oskar Cassillas for a 14-yard score just four plays later to make it a one-score game in the final minute of the third quarter. Keoshian's rebuttal came on a 43-yard surge down the right sideline with 8:19 remaining to get SCCS its cushion back.

"Borden made a great block for me on that play," Keoshian said.

The sigh of relief didn't last long.

Soto struck again, connecting with J.D. Laflin for a 59-yard score just 15 seconds later, cutting the Cardinals lead right back to 28-21 with seven minutes remaining on the clock.

"We played them last year, and their quarterback was a great runner," Moss said. "He's gotten a whole lot better as a passer. We had a tough time at the end there against him."

The key was to keep it out of his hands.

And that's exactly what the Cardinals were able to accomplish with a clock-killing drive, keyed by a 10-yard gain by Keoshian on a fourth-and-5 run in the final two minutes.

He saw the finish line and carried the Cardinals across it.

"Whatever it took, I was going to do it," Keoshian said. "This team has a chance to win a championship. I want it badly. I'll do anything for those yards if it can make it happen."



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