After what was almost an incredible comeback against Redlands East Valley last week, the Chaminade Eagles became the team that nearly blew a big lead on Friday night against the Valencia Vikings before holding on to win, 43-38. Chaminade came into the game at 1-1, and was looking to start gaining some momentum to carry into league play in just a few weeks.
The game started with a very similar play for the Eagles offense, as Tommy Costello hit Jordan Chin on a slant that Chin took all the way to the house for a 61-yard touchdown. Chin has had a great start to his senior season, as he is really using his dynamic speed to tear through opposing defenses.
The Eagles got the ball right back as Valencia fumbled early. The Eagles jumped on the opportunity. T.J. Pledger escaped from a Valencia defender with an unbelievable move that has been all over the internet:
This score put Chaminade up 14-0 just 53 seconds into the game.
The two teams traded touchdowns later in the quarter, as the Eagles led 21-7 going into the second quarter. Chaminade struggled to move the ball after such a hot start on offense, until Dymond Lee connected with Mike Wilson for his second touchdown pass of the game with 2:50 left in the half.
T.J. Brock gave the Eagles another opportunity to score before the half, making a fantastic play on the ball, picking off a deep pass from Valencia quarterback Cole Parkinson. Tommy Costello threw another touchdown on a bootleg play, as he rolled out and found his tight end Jackson Parks for the score. Chaminade led big at half, 36-10.
Both teams scored rather quickly to start the second half, but the Eagles still held on to a sizable lead before Valencia started to make their push. Cole Parkinson threw a beautiful 19-yard pass over safety Jahlil Pinkett to bring the Vikings’ deficit down to 43-24.
Once the Eagles got the ball back, their challenges with turnovers this season continued and began to make an impact on the game. Lee threw a bullet right to a Valencia player, who took it back for a touchdown, a huge momentum switch that got the massive Vikings student section going wild.
Later in the fourth quarter, Andrew Van Buren fumbled the ball on Chaminade’s side of the field, giving the Vikings a great opportunity go continue to close the gap. Just as the Eagles looked like they had Valencia running back Jahmar Berkely stuck in the backfield, Berkely bounced it to the outside for a five-yard touchdown, bringing the Vikings within five points.
On the Eagles next possession, Costello threw an interception right outside the red zone, giving the Vikings the ball back with 4:30 left in the game. After a few first downs, the Chaminade defense was able to put the Vikings in a fourth and six situation, right around mid-field. The Eagles defense came up with the huge stop, securing the win and putting the team above .500.
One might look at the last two games and see that Chaminade has given up an average of 44.5 points per game, and wonder what is going on with the defense? The reality is that the point totals can’t be blamed completely on the defense. The Eagles defense has done a fantastic job of containing the run, as middle linebackers Drew Vasquez and Kyle Bilchik don’t let anything get past them, and the defensive line has done its job. The secondary has been shaky, but in the Mission League, it’s about stopping the run before anything.
The main issue for the Eagles remains the turnovers, whether it’s a fumble, interception, or a turnover on downs. When league starts, the Chaminade defense cannot afford to start often on their own side of the field. If the Eagles can clean up their play for league, they could do some damage against some high quality teams.
Another takeaway from the game was the impressive running from both quarterbacks on Chaminade’s side. Lee, who we all know is a very gifted athlete, showed some dual-threat potential as he was able to escape the pocket a few times and gain big yards. Costello, who rushed for a touchdown last game, had a huge 18-yard run to set up Pledger’s first and only touchdown of the game.
This week, Coach Croson will be playing his former team, the Birmingham Patriots on Homecoming night for Chaminade. That will be the Eagles’ last non-league game, as they will then have two weeks to prepare for Loyola on October 2nd.