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The faith to beat Faith

Posted: December 5, 2008 10:58 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
Exactly how long is the road to a CIF championship? For Cardinal head coach Garrick Moss, the road began in 2002. It was that year that he, along with coordinators John Stone and John Sanna, began building a football legacy at Santa Clarita Christian.

In their first campaign, they took a team that had gone 0-9 and went 5-5. A year later, the Cardinals posted an 11-2 record, won the Heritage League and advanced to their first-ever CIF title game – a game they lost 48-0.

On Friday night, almost exactly five years to the day from that last visit to the championship, the Cardinals finished the job.

I’d be lying if I said it was expected.

“We weren’t supposed to win this game on paper,” Moss said when it was over.

And he was right.

Faith Baptist had lost just once to SCCS in its history, a one-point defeat on the last play of the game back in 2003.

Faith Baptist came into the game a perfect 12-0.

Faith Baptist came into the game ranked No. 1 in California.

Faith Baptist had already beaten SCCS, 46-32 on Nov. 1.

Faith Baptist was so dominant all season that if you take out the 32 points SCCS scored in the teams’ first meeting, the Contenders gave up only 69 for the entire season, including playoffs.

On Friday night, Faith watched the Cardinals post 50.

Even before Friday night, you could have counted SCCS out on paper. The route it took through the CIF-Southern Section Division I 8-Man playoffs was the proverbial minefield. In successive weeks, SCCS had to beat Avalon of Catalina, Windward of Los Angeles, and Faith Baptist.

In state ranking terms, that would be Nos. 3, 2 and 1, respectively. It should not have happened on paper.

So how did it happen? What secret did the Cardinals unearth? What magic elixir did they imbibe?

Coach Sanna told me it was preparation. The Cardinals scouted the Contenders well enough to know what they were going to run before they ran it.

Coach Moss mentioned the weapons his team possessed. Behind an inspired offensive line of first-year starters, junior running back Collin Keoshian was weapon enough. His final stats were an eye-popping 39 carries for 266 yards and five touchdowns.

You could even attribute the victory to a kind of stubbornness on behalf of the Cardinals.

“We’re going to run the ball down your throat,” they might have yelled across the line of scrimmage. “We know you stuffed our rushing attack once this year, but rushing is what we do best. We’ll match our best against your best tonight and settle this once and for all.”

Those are good reasons, and perhaps each played a part in the Cardinal victory Friday night.

But I think the answer lies a little bit deeper. I think it comes from somewhere under the skin. It may even come from somewhere outside the body.

The Cardinals won on Friday night because they believed they could do it. When Faith pushed, the Cardinals pushed harder. When Faith crossed the goal line, the Cardinals crossed it twice. When Faith tried to impose its will, the Cardinals refused to allow it.

On Friday night, it was the Cardinals with the swagger of the best team in the state. In truth, you must now consider that they were right.

“You can’t measure heart on paper,” Moss said after the game.

Nor, it seems, can you measure belief. On Friday night, Faith Baptist may have had the ranking and the record.

But it was the Cardinals who had the faith.

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