After winning their season opener, the Chaminade Eagles took the field Friday night in front of a jam-packed student section that was ready for the first home game of the season. The opponent, Redlands East Valley, came into the game ranked 14th in the state, as they are one of the top public school teams in Southern California. The Wildcats won the game, 51-42, and no this was not a basketball game.
The Eagles defense came out strong, forcing a quick four and out, but the team did not come out as focused on the other side of the ball. The offense looked a little sloppy at the start, but T.J. Pledger, coming off of a five touchdown performance last week against St. Bonaventure, got the offense back on track. The Eagles grounded and pounded their way all the way to the one-yard line, where Tommy Costello pushed his body over the goal line to score the first Chaminade touchdown this year by a player not named Pledger.
On the Wildcats’ second drive, junior quarterback Armando Herrera began to give the Chaminade defense some problems. Faced with a third-and-10 situation, Herrera stood calmly in the pocket, until he saw a wide opening, using his speed to pick up the first down, which led to Redlands’ first touchdown of the game.
The following drive by the Eagles started a theme of the game for the offense: turnovers. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs as Pledger missed the first down by just inches, right around mid-field. The Wildcats capitalized with a quick touchdown, putting them up 14-8, and got the ball back just a few moments later after Andrew Van Buren fumbled the ball on the first play of the Eagles’ drive.
Just as the Wildcats were looking to build a two touchdown lead, Diamond Harrell came up with a huge interception in the end zone to keep the game close at the end of the first quarter. The next Chaminade drive did not last very long, as they were forced to punt deep in their own territory. Redlands blocked the punt, putting them in great field position, yet again, to expand the lead. That they did, as running back Joey Harman caught a screen pass and ran it all the way to start the second quarter. The Wildcats led 21-8.
One of the strengths for Chaminade this year has been the special teams work of UC Davis commit Isiah Thomas, and he continued his strong play on Friday night, as he returned the next kickoff to the opposing 35-yard line. After a quick reception from Dymond Lee, the Eagles were looking like they could get themselves back in the game. However, the drive started to lose momentum, and was capped off by a missed 37-yard field goal by Jake Galbo.
After a nice defensive stand by Chaminade, the Eagles were given another opportunity to pick up the offense. However, Costello threw a costly interception to start off the drive, giving the Wildcats great field position to score. They ended up kicking a field goal, making the score 24-8.
The highlight of the night for the Chaminade team came on the following drive, as Lee hit Jordan Chin running across the middle. At first it seemed like Chin would pick up the first down, but all of the sudden he went into another gear, and showed everybody why he is a state champion track runner, blowing past the whole Redlands defense for a 51-yard touchdown.
The Chaminade student section was going crazy with the momentum on their side, as the Chaminade defense gave the team another chance to close the gap. The Eagles got the ball back with around two minutes left in the half, hoping to end it on a positive note. Instead, Lee threw an interception right around mid-field, and the Wildcats took full advantage. On a 3rd an 19, Herrera extended the play with his legs, as the Chaminade defense scrambled trying to cover all possible targets for the quarterback to throw to. While their backs were turned in man coverage, they lost sight of the man with the ball. Herrera took off for the end zone and put his team up 31-15 at the half.
Like the first half, the Eagles came out fired up to start the third quarter and got a quick stop on defense. Pledger broke out for a 21-yard run to start Chaminade’s first drive of the half. Pledger continued to work for his yards, and finished the drive with a touchdown on the goal line of his own, his sixth score of the season. Chaminade was now in striking distance, but the game started slipping away. The Wildcats scored on their next three possessions, as the Eagles defense simply couldn’t stop Herrera from throwing the ball to a number of receivers. Additionally, Chaminade gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown.
At this point the Eagles were down 51-22, but they did not give up. Lee threw two touchdowns, one to Chin and one to Isiah Richardson, to bring the Eagles back within 15 points.
Chaminade forced a punt, and Isiah Thomas had yet another successful return to give the Eagles very good field position to start the drive. Pledger gave the Eagles one more score. The offense stayed on the field to go for two, but they were not successful. The Eagles never got the ball back, and lost by nine points.
There is no question that with Pledger in the backfield, the Eagles are going to be able to put up points against any team they will face this year. Defense and special teams have much work ahead of them in preparing for the tough Mission League schedule.
The Chaminade defensive line however has looked quite impressive over the first two weeks, making some good plays at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line has been average, as Pledger often does most of the work to break free into the open field.
Chaminade plays Valencia next Friday, which will be no easy task. My prediction is Coach Croson will begin to indicate a clear starter at quarterback, rather than continuing to switch off between Lee and Costello.