Christian Brothers Football Drew Motivation From Several Sources In A Thrilling Capital Athletic League Championship Victory At Vista del Lago •
PICTURED ABOVE: A No. 18 Spencer Webb Oregon Jersey Is Held Up As Christian Brothers Players Celebrate Their CAL Title Win. (Jim McCue photo)
What the Christian Brothers football team lacked in the first half of its Capital Athletic League showdown at Vista del Lago in Folsom on Friday night, it made up for with plenty of inspiration and motivation.
And when a wild fourth quarter ended, the Falcons had completed a 37-35 comeback victory to claim their first league championship since 2017.
“This was for Spencer Webb,” Christian Brothers football coach Larry Morla said. “The last time we won was his senior year. That was five years ago. We wanted it this year and said that we were going to do it.”
Despite having the goal to win a league title for the former Falcon and Oregon Ducks star tight end who died tragically in a hiking accident last summer, the Falcons came out flat and found themselves down 21-6 at the intermission. With a little help from the coaching staff and the Christian Brothers girls’ volleyball team, the Falcons turned things around and took control in the second half.
“We went into the locker room and the coaches were getting on us,” sophomore wide receiver Phillip Bell said. “They reminded us about the volleyball team that was down 0-2 last night (in a playoff match against Roseville) and they came back to beat them. That’s all Coach had to say.”
Christian Brothers responded immediately with a methodical drive down the field that culminated in a Landon Howard touchdown plunge from two yards out and a Will Littlejohn-to-Bell two-point conversion. The Falcons followed that with another scoring drive to even the score at 21-21 less than halfway through the third quarter.
All of the momentum Vista del Lago had built up with a pair of long passes keying a 14-point outburst over the final two minutes of the first half had disappeared. Christian Brothers appeared fully in command after the break.
A second Howard touchdown run gave the Falcons their first lead early in the fourth quarter, but the battle for league supremacy was actually far from over.
After giving up 22 unanswered points, the Eagles finally got back on track with its first sustained second-half drive that ended with a Xavier Bryant 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game. A successful onside kick immediately following the game-tying score left the momentum squarely with Vista del Lago.
The Falcons’ hopes appeared to dip even further when Littlejohn had to leave the game due to a hit and cramping. Insert freshman Deakon Holden. As the offense huddled with coaches, the decision to “pop the top off” was made.
The 14-year-old quarterback threw deep on his first two plays behind center, completing the second pass deep into Vista del Lago territory. While that might have been surprising to the casual observer, the Christian Brothers football coaches and players had supreme confidence in Holden.
“It was no surprise,” Bell said. “Deakon can get it done. He throws a great long ball, so that’s why right when he came in, he was going to take the top off.”
“Deakon Dimes, that’s what we call him,” Morla said after the game. “He was ready to go. He played half of the season for us and then Will (Littlejohn) came in and did a good job. We have two good quarterbacks.”
“Deakon is fearless,” Morla added. “He’s only 14 years old, but he’s throwing dimes. He was unfazed.”
The final swings of the pendulum occurred in the final five minutes of the game. The Falcons drove down the field and Howard was ready to reclaim the lead as he bullied his way toward the end zone. But a fumble right at the goal line was recovered by the Eagles at their own 1-yard line.
Just as fast as the home crowd roared its approval, the visitors quieted the stadium with a safety on the first play from scrimmage.
Senior linebacker Dustin Regino shot the gap to record a sack that gave the Falcons a 30-28 advantage and the ball back. On the ensuing drive, Holden connected with senior receiver Marcus Price on a scoring pass that put the Falcons up by two scores with 2:45 left in the game.
“That’s just the nature of the beast,” Vista del Lago head coach Kyle Landes said. “Football is a lot like Texas Hold ‘Em High Limit. You’re all in at all times and you have to play with the swings of the game and, unfortunately, we took that one to the chin and never recovered.”
The challenge for both teams now is to reset for the postseason after enduring the highs and lows of the regular season finale. Morla and the Falcons emphasized the need to celebrate briefly before focusing on improving every day as the playoffs begin a new season.
Christian Brothers drew the No.4 seed in the Division III bracket. They receive a bye and await the winner of this week’s game between Ceres and Merced.
Vista del Lago coaches echoed similar sentiments. The Eagles earned the No. 6 seed in Division III and begin postseason play this week by hosting Yuba City.
“We stick with the message that the season is not over,” Landes said. “We haven’t peaked yet and it’s time to make a run at things.”