MOORPARK– Grace Brethren's perfect season came to an end last week against Sierra Canyon in a non-league game that helped tune them up before the league championship and playoffs. But Friday, it was the Lancers ending Camarillo's unbeaten season in the last week before the playoffs. Camarillo came to play, but Grace won 28-13 behind three rushing touchdowns and great defense. Here are five takeaways from the game:
LANCERS TOO BIG AND STRONG
Camarillo is far from a small team, but very few teams can physically match up with Grace Brethren on either side of the ball. The Lancers' lines had size advantages on both sides of the ball without struggling to match up in terms of speed. The Scorpions still fought and made them execute, but the size of Grace Brethren, who is also very fast, put them at a significant physical disadvantage.
Defensively, Grace's front seven had pressure on Camarillo QB James McNamara at all times. He was continually forced out of the pocket and not given enough time to comfortably read the defense. They gave up a lot of yards after contact to RB Jesse Valenzuela (as does everyone who plays Camarillo), but overall their interior defense was strong.
In particular, it was Grace Brethren's offensive line that was even more of a matchup problem for Camarillo. Given the amount of misdirection-oriented run plays the Lancers use, their size on that end made for a particularly tough time. The Scorpions were quick to the ball and executed well defensively, but struggled getting through or around the beef.
Grace Brethren was strong across the board and got it done as a team. Defensively they made very few mistakes the whole game from the defensive line to the safeties, and stepped it up when Camarillo was applying pressure.
As mentioned, their offensive line was dominant and gave the playmakers some room to operate. RB Josh Henderson finished with a rushing touchdown and did a lot of the heavy lifting. Defensive lineman Soane Toia scored the Lancers' first two touchdowns on blasts at the goal line. QB Mikey Zele had a touchdown pass to WR Nate Bennett, and injected a lot of energy into Grace Brethren's offense with his ability to scramble, extend plays, and dodge tackles.
For Camarillo, QB James McNamara finished with a rushing touchdown and did what he could do with the defense breathing down his neck. RB Jesse Valenzuela had the Scorps' other touchdown, and was almost impossible to bring down the whole night. His ability to bounce off of hits and disappear through seams was exciting to watch, as he frequently made big gains out of nothing. Camarillo's defense was physically overmatched, but still put up a strong fight.
UNUSUAL OFFENSIVE SCHEMES
The offenses of both these teams made it very difficult to follow the ball. Both of these squads pass more than enough to keep defenses honest, but prefer to run the ball behind an uncanny amount of fakes and misdirections.
Additionally, Grace Brethren does something that makes them unusually hard to guard that is almost never pulled off at the high school level. For a significant amount of their plays, the Lancers huddled and then literally sprinted into position to get the ball in play as fast as any team you'll ever see in football. A lot of teams control the pace through frenetic no-huddle offenses, but Grace Brethren skips the step after the huddle a lot of the time. They dart into position already set up, and snap the ball without a pause. And almost never mess up doing it.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
Camarillo had the ball down 28-13 with 1:55 left in reasonably good field position. McNamara was in a situation where he had to force something, and a deflected pass ended up in the arms of Nate Bennett. That put the game out of reach.
CAMARILLO STILL LOOKED LIKE A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER
While the Scorpions were outclassed by a better team, they still looked like a potential Division 4 champion. The team they lost to happens to be a Division 3 contender who will almost certainly have the second or third seed in their playoff bracket, and is better than anyone Camarillo will face in Division 4. In fact, one could argue that the Scorpions are still the favorite to win.
Losing the league title and ending an undefeated season in the last week is brutally disappointing, but Camarillo has no reason to hang their heads. The way they played for most of the night against Grace Brethren, they have a very solid chance of taking home a title after all before the year is through.