The Classical Academy football team continues to thrive on Life support.
Life Pollard scored three touchdowns three different ways Friday night to lead the Caimans to a 34-14 victory over Lancaster in the CIF South Regional championship for Division 6-AA at Del Norte High.
“It feels amazing,” said Pollard, a senior running back who scored a rushing touchdown in addition to an interception return and a kickoff return for scores. “First time going to state.”
Classical Academy, hosting a state playoff contest for the first time in any sport, will play for a state championship on Dec. 10 in Palo Alto against Santa Teresa of San Jose, a 30-20 winner over Palo Alto in the North Region final.
“It’s going to take a while for it to all sink in,” said Caimans coach Josiah Cruz, whose team was 1-9 a year ago in Cruz’s first season but is now 11-3 after winning the San Diego Section Division V championship with a 33-14 victory over Crawford in the division title game a week ago followed by the regional win over Lancaster.
“It’s a very special moment, and these guys have set the foundation for years to come after going 1-9 last year,” said Cruz.
Lancaster, of the Golden League, finishes its season at 9-6. The Eagles lost four of their first five games while going 5-5 during the regular season before winning four playoff games in the Southern Section, surviving a 44-42 shootout with Valley Christian of Cerritos in the Division 12 championship game last weekend.
Classical Academy opened the scoring with a 39-yard field goal by Trevor Allen to cap the Caimans’ first offensive series of the game. After forcing a second straight punt by the Eagles, the hosts drove 64 yards on 12 plays to their next score, converting twice on fourth down along the way.
Pollard thought he had a touchdown on a screen pass from quarterback Luke Sega, but the apparent 49-yard score was nullified by a holding penalty. Pollard did find his way into the end zone six plays later with a 27-yard scoring run off right tackle on a fourth-and-2 situation, giving Classical Academy a 10-0 lead as time expired in the first period.
It didn’t take along for Pollard to get re-acquainted with the end zone as he intercepted a Lancaster pass by quarterback Cedric SaMarion on the third play of the second quarter, returning the theft 65 yards for a 17-0 Caimans lead.
“I just saw an open field in front of me,” Pollard said of his pick-six.
Lancaster finally got on the scoreboard with 39 seconds remaining in the first half when SaMarion found Chowlyn Hughes in the right corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Classical defense stuffed the two-point conversion run attempt, leaving the score 17-6 at the intermission.
The Caimans began the second half with a 31-yard field goal by Allen with 2:50 elapsed in the third period, but Lancaster responded four plays later with another SaMarion to Hughes touchdown connection, this one covering 65 yards. When SaMarion successfully ran in the two-point conversion, Classical’s lead was sliced to 20-14 with 7:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The momentum shifted back to Classical when Pollard fielded the ensuing kickoff at his 3-yard line and raced 97 yards to give the Caimans a two-touchdown lead again.
“The middle was wide open, and I just picked up my blockers,” Pollard said.
“Life is a special guy,” said Cruz. “It’s the way he leads on and off the field.”
Classical Academy clinched the outcome in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run by Thomas Hinrichs on a sweep around the left side, followed four plays later by a Chase Mizel interception with 6:18 left on the clock.
Hinrichs’ score came just three plays after Pollard knocked down a fourth-down pass attempt by the Eagles from their own 10-yard line.
SaMarion was taken off the field on a stretcher with an apparent following a lengthy injury delay midway through the fourth quiarter.
The Classical Academy defense sacked SaMarion seven times, including twice by strong safety Roman Menotti. Linebacker Jackson Ballou had one solo sack and teamed up on two others with defensive end Cole Friar.
Hoff is a freelance writer.
Classical Academy 34, Lancaster 14
Lancaster 0 6 8 0 — 14
Classical Academy 10 7 10 7 — 34
CA — FG Allen 39
CA — L. Pollard 27 run (Allen kick)
CA — L. Pollard 65 interception return (Allen kick)
L — Hughes 25 pass from SaMarion (run failed)
CA — FG Allen 31
L — Hughes 65 pass from SaMarion (SaMarion run)
CA — L. Pollard 97 kickoff return (Allen kick)
CA — T. Hinrichs 5 run (Allen kick)