Upset win earns Cloverdale #9 seed in NCS Division 5 playoffs
Every football team has a defining moment in their season that can tip the scales in either direction.
The Eagles had their moment in Friday’s league finale at Lower Lake, shocking the heavily favored Trojans in a stunning 17-14 upset. The signature win saved what had been a rollercoaster season, earning Cloverdale the #9 seed in the North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs.
“The win over Lower Lake defined my time in Cloverdale so far,” CHS second-year head coach Chad Talley said later. “It took two years but the kids finally bought in and gave all they had for four quarters.”
The Eagles (3-6) will open the NCS playoffs at home this Friday, Nov. 10 versus #8 seeded Stellar Prep (3-7) of Oakland in a 7 p.m. kickoff. Should Cloverdale win, it will advance to face #1 seeded St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo on Friday, Nov. 17.
The NCS clash with Stellar Prep is the second meeting between teams this season, with Cloverdale having lost 16-0 to the Thunder in a preseason clash on Sept. 1.
The complete list of NCS Division 5 playoff teams in seeding order are St. Patrick-St. Vincent, Middletown, Kelseyville, Clear Lake, Arcata, Fort Bragg, Ferndale, Stellar Prep, Cloverdale, Berean Christian, Willits and Elsie Allen.
Eagles stun Trojans
The Eagles made the trek to Gordon Sadler Field in Lower Lake on Friday, looking to pull an upset over the 7-1 Trojans in the NCL 1 finale.
Things started well enough for Lower Lake, drawing first blood in the opening quarter on an eight-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 lead. Later in the period, the Eagles answered with a 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Wirt to receiver Christian Chavez as the teams went to the halftime locker room knotted at 7-7.
Cloverdale took a three-point lead early in the third quarter, mounting a drive culminating in a 22-yard field goal from Danny Valencia to make it 10-7. The score continued to see-saw when the Trojans found pay dirt on a 17-yard run to put them back in the lead 14-10 at the end of three.
But the Eagles’ fortunes would take a northward turn with 5:35 left in the game when senior return man BJ Grady fielded a punt and took it 55 yards to the house for a 17-14 Cloverdale lead.
Eagles fans held their collective breath when Lower Lake mounted a desperate final drive with two minutes remaining, but a holding penalty would erase a would be nine-yard touchdown run. Two plays later, Cloverdale defender Garret Robertson picked off a Trojan’s screen pass and the Eagles ran out the clock to preserve a 17-14 victory.
Wirt finished up a gritty night with 6 completions on 12 pass attempts for 161 yards and one touchdown, while adding 11 carries for 93 yards on the ground. Other offensive standouts included Chavez (6-126 yards receiving, TD) and Grady (1-35 yards receiving, punt return TD).
Mel Alonso led the defensive unit with eight tackles while Cesar Buenrostro forced a fumble (recovered by Wirt). Robertson and Eli Arreola pulled down interceptions for the Eagles.