Ambitious aspirations for the football program were only part of the lofty goals that were set when Sierra Canyon School of Chatsworth expanded to add a high school campus in 2006.
Guess it’s now possible to check off the football part of it after the Trail Blazers won their first CIF state championship, won the first CIF state crown for a San Fernando Valley school and capped a 15-0 season with a 34-13 triumph over Le Grand in the CIF Division IV state bowl game Friday at The Home Depot Center.
"I'm on a pinnacle now and I couldn't be more content,” said Sierra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse, who took over the program four years ago after serving as an assistant at Chaminade of West Hills. “Now the challenge is to make it year in and year out. We have the pieces in place to grow this program and turn it into one of the top programs in the area."
The Trail Blazers took a 7-0 lead on their first series of the game, but a fired-up group from Le Grand had momentum for much of the first half. If it wasn’t for a 41-yard touchdown run by Xavier Menifield with 4:11 left in the quarter, Sierra Canyon would have trailed at the break instead of leading 14-13.
“The kids were a little nervous in the beginning, but it’s like coach Harry Welch told me earlier in the week, ‘You don't know what it’s like to play in a game like this until you're actually out there,’” Ellinghouse said.
“At halftime, we relaxed and danced a bit. They weren’t beating us, it was just the atmosphere.”
Game MVP: Xavier Menifeld (Sierra Canyon)
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior didn’t score until late in the second quarter, but helped turn the tide for the Trail Blazers with 18 carries for 137 yards and three scores.
Menifield’s first touchdown on a 41-yard run with 4:11 left before halftime pushed Sierra Canyon to a 14-13 lead (after the PAT), an advantage that was stretched to 27-13 in the third quarter on his 2-yard run and then to 34-13 on his 7-yard run.
“To come in here in our third year of varsity football and take the whole state, it’s mind-boggling,” said Menifield, who also ended the season with 1,514 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Other top juniors returning for Sierra Canyon next year include tight end/linebacker Brian Tucker, linebacker Jesse Janes and receiver Preston White.
Le Grand still averaged 55.0 points per game
Despite only scoring 13 points and being hurt by four turnovers, the Le Grand football team still only saw its remarkable scoring average for the season drop to 55.0 per game.
Entering the contest, the Bulldogs were No. 5 in the state record book with 58.5 per game. They fell behind five other teams afterwards, including last year’s Folsom team that won the CIF Division II state bowl crown.
One player for Le Grand who stepped up his game significantly from when we saw the team earlier in the season was senior Aaron Salcido. He had one interception, two forced fumbles and nine tackles on defense. He caught three passes for 43 yards and ran twice for 17 yards on offense.
Here is where the Bulldogs finished up on the Cal-Hi Sports all-time state list for scoring average by a team:
Highest Team Scoring Averages (Season)
64.7 - Modesto Central Catholic, 2005 (777/12-0)
62.9 - Bloomington, 1994 (880/14-0)
59.3 - San Rafael Hitchcock Military Academy, 1921 (415/7-0)
59.2 - Modesto Central Catholic, 2003 (711/13-0) (12 games played)
57.9 - Modesto Central Catholic, 2004 (753/13-0)
56.4 - Elk Grove, 1998 (789/14-0)
55.7 - Vacaville Christian, 2005 (557/9-2)*
55.4 - Folsom, 2010 (776/14-1)
55.3 - Bloomington, 1997 (774/12-2)
55.0 - Le Grand, 2011 (715/12-1)
54.8 - San Diego Marian Catholic, 2003 (712/13)
54.7 - Long Beach Poly, 1920 (438/7-1)
54.2 - Vallejo, 1954 (488/9-0)
Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.