Sierra Canyon 36, Paraclete 26

GRANADA HILLS -- Sierra Canyon’s Reggie Prince scored three touchdowns, two on long interception returns, and led the Trailblazers to their first win over Alpha League rival Paraclete, 36-26, at Granada Hills High School on Saturday night.

Prince scored on interceptions returns of 70 and 72 yards. He also caught a 27-yard pass for a touchdown. But after the game, he said it was teammate Brian Tucker who was the player of the game.

Tucker caught the eventual game-winning touchdown for Sierra Canyon, a six-yard toss from quarterback Tyler Stewart, with a little more than three minutes to play in the game.

Tucker’s touchdown gave Sierra Canyon a one-point lead, 27-26. Stewart ran in the two-point conversion to put the Trailblazers up 29-26.

It was the first time in three meetings that Sierra Canyon (9-0) beat Paraclete (7-2). The two teams met twice last season, including in the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division championship game. Paraclete won that game, 14-7.

“Our confidence is very high,” Sierra Canyon coach Jon Elinghouse said. “Our backs were against the wall and our defense had our backs.”

Prince gave Sierra Canyon an early 7-0 lead with an interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Paraclete was facing fourth-and-4 from the Sierra Canyon 34-yard line when quarterback Tyler Carvalho was picked off by Prince.

Sierra Canyon took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a one-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Stewart.

Paraclete cut the lead to 11 points, 14-3, on a 38-yard field goal by Andrew Jimenez early in the second quarter. The Spirits scored a safety when Sierra Canyon, pinned deep in its own territory, snapped the ball out of the end zone on a punt.

Sierra Canyon extended its lead, 21-5, on a 27-yard touchdown catch by Prince with 2:26 to play in the first half.

But Paraclete battled back quickly, scoring a touchdown on a 71-yard drive that took 58 seconds. Carvalho hit Braydon Maish with an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 left in the first half.

Sierra Canyon went into halftime with a 21-12 lead.

Paraclete scored the first 14 points of the second half and took a 26-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Triston Brown had his own interception return for a touchdown to bring Paraclete with two points, 21-19, in the third quarter.

Paraclete coach Norm Dahlia called the game a “slugfest.” Both teams lost important players to injuries. Sierra Canyon’s Xavier Menifield was taken out of the game after a hard hit to the head in the first quarter. He was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation and had concussion-like symptoms.

Carvalho, Paraclete’s junior quarterback, injured his ankle in the second half and was also taken out of the game.

“We tried to wrap it up, but he just couldn’t go,” Dahlia said. “He wanted to play, but you gotta look out for the health of your players.”

Darrell Johnson, Paraclete’s back-up quarterback, came in and threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Leroy Melancon to give the Spirits their first lead in the game, 26-21, with 8:07 left in the game.

Tucker’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter gave Sierra Canyon the lead back, 29-26.

“My guys were cramping up,” Elinghouse said. “We didn’t get our offensive rhythm until midway through the fourth quarter.”

Prince put the game out of reach with his second interception return for a touchdown in the game, picking off Johnson with under a minute to play in the game.

“He’s been there supporting Tyler the whole season,” Dahlia said about Johnson. “We made some mental mistakes and they took advantage. Last year, that’s what we got to do. It was a role reversal.”