Sierra Canyon hasn’t been playing 11-man football for very long. The Trailblazers haven’t been playing any kind of football for very long.
Three years ago, in 2009, Sierra Canyon started its first season in 11-man fooball. Thirty-four wins and a Southern Section East Valley Division championship later, Sierra Canyon is playing for a state championship against Le Grand in the CIF Division IV bowl game at the Home Depot Center on Friday.
Sierra Canyon coach Jon Ellinghouse started the football program at Sierra Canyon with an eight-man team. He said he invited the challenge of building a program from scratch, but he did admit that making the jump from eight-man football to 11-man was more difficult than he anticipated.
“It’s very different,” Ellinghouse said. “I knew we were going to be 11-man. We were a good eight-man team. It all happened real quick.”
Sierra Canyon has become a good 11-man team in a short amount of time. The Trailblazers (14-0) completed an undefeated season and will have a chance to establish a reputation as one of the best small-school teams in the state.
Senior quarterback Tyler Stewart has thrown for 2,245 yards and 32 touchdowns and is completing 59 percent of his passes. He has only thrown two interceptions. His passing stats have been a little low the past two games. He only threw for 111 yards against Rim of the World on a freezing night in the semifinals. He threw for 131 yards and a touchdown in the East Valley Division championship game against Paraclete at Antelope Valley College.
Running backs Xavier Menifield and Danny Jordan have gone over the 1,000-yard mark this season. Menifield leads the team in rushing with 1,382 yards and 25 touchdowns. Jordan has 1,021 yards and eight touchdowns. The two combined for 314 yards rushing and six touchdowns against Paraclete last week.
Preston White has become one of Sierra Canyon’s top receivers after Julian Brooks went down midseason with a foot injury. White has 35 catches for 490 yards and seven touchdowns.
Sierra Canyon and Le Grand (12-0) are very similar teams offensively. They both have strong-armed quarterbacks, a bruising running game and talented receivers who produce a ton of points.
Sierra Canyon is averaging 46.1 points per games and more than seven touchdowns per game. The Trailblazers didn’t cool off when the playoffs started either, averaging 45.7 points per game in the East Valley Division playoffs.
Le Grand is scoring at a 58.5-points-per-game clip this season. The Bulldogs should be well-rested for the game against Sierra Canyon, too. The won the CIF San-Joaquin Valley Division V championship three weeks ago.
Le Grand coach Rick Martinez said his players have spent the past three weeks fine-tuning their play on the offensive and defensive lines.
Receiver Zachary Moreno leads the team with 1,387 yards and has scored 21 touchdowns. He is being recruited by UCLA, Sacramento State, Fresno State and San Jose State, Martinez said. Moreno is also a basketball player, tall and fast, and a protypical receiver.
“He loves the weight room,” Martinez said. “A great receiver.”
Senior quarterback Alex Bucio has thrown for 2,344 yards and 40 touchdowns. Martinez said Bucio is a very coachable player and doesn’t know how good he can be. Bucio is a converted baseball player, a pitcher and shortstop, who is only in his third year of playing football.
Running back Daniel Guizar is a dominating player on both sides of the ball. He leads the team with 1,906 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns. He also plays outside linebacker and leads the team with eight sacks. On top of all that, he has returned three kicks for touchdowns.
“He epitomizes being a bulldog for us,” Martinez said.
Expect a lot of points and some big plays on offense in this game.